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A PROJECT of this kind to survey the mind of die Ecumenical 
Community as it judges the contemporary social order could 
not be seriously undertaken without the co-operation of officials 
of the World Council of Churches. At the direction of the 
General Secretary, Dr. W. A. Visser 't Hooft, the Archives of 
the Council were made available to the writer with no limitations 
indicated as to their use. Indeed the only conceivable complaint 
is that the former Director of the World Council's Study 
Department, Dr. Nils Ehreiistroni, never failed to suggest more 
files to be searched. For, working at the Secretariat at Geneva 
made it possible to examine the records of the World Council's 
predecessor, the Universal Christian Council on Life and Work, 
successive drafts of World Council documents on social questions, 
the comments by collaborators of the ecumenical effort, the 
complete file of die Ecumenical Press Service, and the stenographic 
minutes of the relevant Sections of the Amsterdam and Evanston 

The plan of the project and the rationale of the organization 
of the material of this study are described in the Introduction. 

In the course of Ms work the writer profited from conversations 
with Professors William Banning, John C. Bennett, Panayotis 
Bratsiotis, Emil Brumier, V. A. Demant, Werner Kagi, Walter 
G. Muelder, and Doctors Hans ten Doornkaat, C. L. Patijn 
and J. C. C. Rupp. These conversations occurred at different 
stages of the development of the book and of the writer's under- 
standing of the material; at times, then, when many of the 
questions asked must have seemed ingenuous. From all of these 
conversations, however, die writer retains memories of active 
sympathy and imfaiHng charity. 

Of all the officials of the World Council, a special measure o 

gratitude is reserved for the Reverend Paul Abreclit, Secretary 
of the Department on Church and Society, and for Mile H6lcne 
Lcckie, the Librarian. The overworked Reverend Paul Abrecht 
always found time to answer questions. The world of scholarship 
is admittedly enormously indebted to industrious librarians, 
Mile Leckie added personal interest in the project to competent 
professional service. 

Like all other students at the Graduate Institute of International 
Studiesunder whose direction the present study was completed 
the writer is bound, to express his gratitude to its Secretary, 
Mine Alice Gocbel. The range of interests of Professor Jacques 
Frcymoud, Director of the Institute, who guided, this dissertation, 
provided the writer with insights extending beyond die specialized 
scope of tliis book. 

In acknowledging and in no routine fashion the aid of 
others, the writer would underline the familiar protestation that 
the conclusions offered are his own. The fact that he is a Cadiolic 
priest of the Society of Jesus may suggest a special force to that 
protestation. It may embellish it with a new interest. Whether 
it adds anything to the value of the study here offered is for the 
book itself to demonstrate and for odiers to say. 

December 8, 1954 


We are indebted to Messrs. George Allen. & Unwin Ltd. for extraci 
from The Christian Faith and the Common Life by Nils Bhrenstrom and Tl 
Churches Survey Their Task edited by J. H. Oldham; The Hight Revereaa 
the Lord Bishop of Chichester for an extract from The, Stockholm Conferenc 
The Student Christian. Movement Press Ltd. for material from The Fit 
Assembly of the World Council of Churches edited by W, A. Visser 't Hooft a 
The Church md the Disorder of Society, and The Student Christian, Movemei 
Press Ltd. and Messrs, Harper and Bros, for extracts from The Kingship 
t- r.M*M Reoort bv W, A Visser 't Hooft 










i. The Problem in the Mission Field. 2. The Influence Oj 
Student Groups. 3. The Social Gospel. 4. The Quest 
for Christian Reunion. 


i. After Stockholm, a. Oxford, 1937. 3. Negotiations with 

the Faith and Order Movement, 4. Preparations for 

Amsterdam. 5. The Participation of the Orthodox Churches. 



i. Amsterdam-Woudschoten, 1948. 2. Chichester, 1949. 
3. Toronto, 1950. 4. Rolle, 1951. 5. Lucknow, 1953. 



I. Negative Disclaimers. 2. Positive Convictions: Reserva- 
tions on the part of the Orthodox, 3. Unity and Autonomy. 






I. The Natural Law, 2. Biblical Insights, 



I, The Appeal to the Bible. 2, Law between Nations, 


i. The State, 2. Property, 3. Further Implications ana 



i. The Meaning of History. 2. The World Council turns 
to Eschatology, 3. The Variety of Christian Eschatology, 
4, Eschatological Synthesis, 5. The Unresolved Tension, 


i. The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century. 2, Karl Earth, 
3. Brnnner and Temple. 4, Niebuhr and Bennett. 5. Two 
Basic Principles of Ecumenical Social Philosophy 




I. Preparations for Amsterdam, 2, Preparations for 
Evanston. 3. The Issues at Evmston, 


I. The Amsterdam Diagnosis: Moral Inertia in the Machine 
Age, 2, The Evanston Diagnosis: New Arenas of Social 
Conflict, 3, The Difference in Diagnosis, 




I. Social Mechanisms. 2. In Search of Stability and 
Freedom. 3. Further Problems. 


i. The Preliminary Outline. 2. Fuller Exposition. 
3. Towards Definition. 


i. ''Capitalism as Economic Individualism. 2. Com- 
munism or 'Stalinism'? 3. The Amsterdam Verdicts 
Explained. 4. Evanston Reassessments. 


i. Means of Influence. 2. Public Pronouncements. 3. Pro- 
grammes for Action. 4. Political Parties. 5. Church and 
State. 6. Race Relations. 7. Christian Witness in Com~ 
munist or Non-Communist Society. 


1, The Prevention of War and the Building of Peace. 

2, International Law and the Need for Institutions. 

3, Human Rights. 4. Problems of Practical Action. 


l, Ecumenicism as a 'Third Way. 2. Inherent Dijp- 288 
cuhies, 3. Future Concerns. 4. Summary of Achievements. 

APPENDIX: The 'Catholic and 'Protestant' Emphases 309 


INDEX 333 


Amsterdam W. A. Visser 't Hooft (ed.), The First Assembly of 
the World Council of Churches (New York: Harper 
& Bros., 1948; London: Student Christian Move- 
ment Press, 1949). 

Archives The Archives of the World Council of Churches, 

Geneva, Switzerland. 

CDS The Church and the Disorder of Society (New York: 

Harper & Bros., 1948; London: Student Christian 
Movement Press, 1948). 

CHTC The Christian Hope and the Task of the Churches 

(an omnibus volume of the survey brochures 
prepared for the Evanston Assembly), (New York: 
Harper & Bros., 1954). 

Evanston W. A. Visser 't Hooft (ed,), The Evanston Report 
(New York: Harper & Bros., 1955; London: 
Student Christian Movement Press, 1955). 

EPS The Ecumenical Press Service, issued weekly from 

Geneva, 1933- . Before January 1947, known as 
the International Christian Press and Information 

ER The Ecumenical Review, published quarterly at 

Geneva, 1948- . 

History Ruth Rouse and Stephen C. Neill (eds,), A History 

of the Ecumenical Movement, i $17-1948 (London: 
S.P.C.K., 1954; Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 

Oxford ]. H, Oldharn (ed.), The Churches Survey Their 

Task: The Report of the Conference at Oxford, 
July 1937, on Church, Community and State (London: 

George Allen & Unwin, 1937). 
Stockholm G. K, A. Bell (ed.), The Stockholm Conference of 192$ 

(London: Humphrey Milford, 192,6). 


THE present survey is an. investigation of the Ecumenical Move- 
ment's criticism of the economic order, the political institutions 
and the international developments of our times. It is not a 
theological study. 

The theological premises and implications of the organized 
effort to achieve ecclesiastical unity, engaging the hopes of most 
of the Protestant churches and winning the qualified collaboration 
of some Orthodox groups, have been examined in an extensive, 
if somewhat specialized, literature. That ecclesiastical phenomenon 
is commonly known as the Ecumenical Movement; its historic 
culmination is the World Council of Churches which was 
formally constituted on August 23, 1948. In its sifting of the 
meaning of the Christian religion, the Ecumenical Movement has 
considered and expressed judgments on many of the social issues 
of the day. The present study seeks to order these judgments, 
indicate their inspiration in the common Ecumenical tradition, 
trace the evolution of this tradition and evaluate its strength. 
It is an essay, then, in a neglected chapter in the history of social 
criticism, an effort to organize the evidence of social concern and 
to analyse the demands for social order on the part of a religious 
movement of impressive proportions. 

The demand for control of economic processes which will 
serve justice and freedom, for the rule of law in international 
relations which will assure peace, is voiced in all the languages of 
the globe and is based on the most diverse claims. The demand, 
however exploited to political advantage, undoubtedly manifests 
humanity's common insistence; it is expressed in protests against 
unemployment, against racial discrimination, against insufficient 
housing and medical care, against all refusals of national indepen- 
dence, against all invasions of human rights, against the burden 


of armaments and the threats of war. There is an increasing 
awareness at the same time that the norms needed to assure equal 
justice and preserve peace must not be subject to human change, 
that the standards required must be sought outside the institutional 
mechanisms to be regulated. Norms and standards not of 
human contriving nor affected by human caprice belong to 
what is popularly called the order of spiritual values. It 
is one of the marks of the times that with whatever sin- 
cerity and whatever meaning such values are being invoked 

It has become a commonplace that civilization is in danger 
because man's technical skills have outrun his moral controls, 
his spiritual development. 1 It is noteworthy that few groups are 
as articulate and insistent in making that assertion as the atomic 
physicists whose research, and technology elaborated the Absolute 
"Weapon. It is curious but significant that this is so, indicative of 
an intellectual revolution that has taken place since Victorian 
times when, a grandfatherly God was in his heaven and all was 
said to be right with die world. More than mere time has inter- 
vened between Dr. Thomas H. Huxley's counsel that men of 
science should sit down before the facts like little children and 
Dr. Harold C, Urcy's protestation that he is a 'frightened man*. 
Innocence was lost and moral neutrality rejected when die fact 
to be contemplated burgeoned into a mushroom-shaped cloud 
hanging over Hiroshima. 'The cosmic process has no sort of 
relation to moral ends,' declared Professor Huxley. His nephew, 
Aldous, living in a generation too sobered by subsequent events 
to subscribe to such Olympian shallowness, entitled his effort to 
analyse moral relations, Ends and Means. The scientists who 
converged on Washington from die several sites of die Man- 
hattan district in the summer of 1945 were one in demanding 
controls not found in. die scientific order for die tool diey had 
perfected* Nuclear energy which taps die forces of the cosmic 
process must be prompdy related to moral ends, insisted die 

1 Thus, lord Boyd Orr sometime Director of the U.N.'s Pood and Agricultural 
Organization, appeals for a 'new order', siace 'nineteenth-century economics and politics 


Federation of Atomic Scientists: it must be harnessed to serve 
the purposes of peace exclusively. 

A contemporary of die elder Huxley, Thomas H. Buckle, 
wrote a History of Civilization, offering the assurance of happy 
times to cornc, since man, a product of nature, was, as engineer, 
explorer and industrialist, subduing nature. The meaning of 
history entertained by this prognosis involved nothing more 
complicated than the future following the past, with the future 
brighter because indeed it was ahead and man was, most 
certainly, intelligent. A contemporary of Dr. Urey, Arnold J. 
Toynbee, has written A Study of History as a record of 'God 
revealing Himself. The pattern of history, in die Toynbee 
analysis, is found in a series of Challenges and Responses, with 
the future always precarious, given man's ambiguous will and the 
gratuity of God's grace; at present mankind is experiencing one 
of its recurrent Times of Troubles, since the values which sustained 
the modern age have been eroded. 

The Victorian confidence in the automatic workings of the 
unsupervised trade mechanism to establish an equilibrium of 
justice by die balancing off of multiple selfishnesses has only 
withered flowers to mark its tomb. Anodicr contemporary of 
the elder Huxley, Charles Dickens, characterized the essential 
hypocrisy of that gospel of self-interest in die words of one of his 
greatest characters: 'Everyone for himself and God for all of us, 
as die elephant said when he danced among die chickens.' In 
self-defence the dispossessed turned to die State to master the 
manipulators of the market. Experience has cooled that early 
revolutionary enthusiasm and expectation. For in due time the 
hymns of fraternal solidarity were replaced by the war chants of 
fascism and the humourless mots tfordre on every topic from die 
new laws of inherited characteristics to the canons of musical 
criticism, all issuing from the oracles of die successful workers' 
revolution ensconced beyond human view in the Kremlin. 
Pierre Joseph Proudlion would have difficulty in greeting Alexei 
Grigorievitch Stakhanov as a brother in the battle of freedom. 
The cure for social disaggregation by surrender to the State, die 


remedy for the effects of individualism by the therapy of col- 
lectivism, lias proved hideously costly. The fact should not be 
surprising. For collectivism, it has been remarked, is only social 
atomism packed tight. 

The accelerating pace of technological developments makes 
the need of some sort of social control as evident and as necessary 
as the light signal which endeavours to guide the increasing 
traffic of an increasingly mechanized society. The menace of 
modem means of transportation not only illustrates the problem; 
it is part Another contemporary of T. IL Huxley, William 
Ewart Gladstone, lived long enough to be able to envisage a 
railroad trip from Calais to Pckin. He had entered the govern- 
ment, as Mr. Denis Brogan has observed, under Sir Robert 
Peel in 1835 when that future boss of the London Bobbies was 
recalled from Rome to be Prime Minister, travelling at a rate no 
faster than Hadrian who voyaged to Britain 1800 years before. 
Had Gladstone in his last days visited the military academy at 
Sandhurst he would surely have had pointed out to him a young 
cadet, disappointingly slow at mathematics, the son of one of his 
political colleagues. The boy, destined after many adventures 
to succeed the Grand Old Man as Prime Minister of Great 
Britain, was to live to avow that all his waking hours were 
tormented by the problem of thermo-nuclear realities, a meaning- 
less term to Gladstone for whose generation atoms recalled at 
most the ineffectual philosophy of Democritus. 1 For Sir Winston 
Churchill, however, the term portended the possibility of an 
Asian (but not necessarily a well-mannered New Zealander) 
sketching from the remnants of London Bridge the ruins of 
St. Paul's, volatilized in a fashion beyond Macaulay's direst 
nightmares. The destruction could come from planes based 
on a distant continent travelling faster than the speed of 
sound; it might indeed be borne by a missile, piercing the 

1 Mr. Churchill's alarm is understandable in die light of information on the destructive 
power of die latest weapon. If die average bomber load iu the Second World War is 
represented by an object four indies high, the Nagasaki-Hiroshima atomic bomb would 
be a 1,666-foot column, the improved, contemporary 'conventional* atom, bomb would 
measure 4,998 feet, and die therino-nuclear superbomb, on. a similar scale, would call 


stratosphere, launched by dutiful technicians who never saw an 
Englishman, guided by forces whose intimate nature is still 

Such terrors of technology run wild must be tamed, it is 
universally agreed. It was mad enough when disease blighted 
the crop on colonial plantations and temporarily embarrassed 
some exporters or, at worst, boosted the price of tea. After all, 
that evil was chargeable to blind nature, and bacteria could be 
isolated and plants sprayed. The danger, the aggravatingly 
absurd danger, in a world whose dimensions had shrunk to 
almost a neighbourhood, is now seen as a product of the perversity 
of human decisions. An arbitrary tariff policy, adopted without 
debate by the United States Congress, could close the copper 
mines of Chile. Mistreatment of native workers in South Africa 
by high-handed managers could bring on a strike that would 
ruin the savings of small investors in Scotland. Social unrest in 
Arabian oil fields could immobilize the autobuses of Stockholm. 
Doctrinaire fiscal theories could lead to a currency devaluation, 
an irresolute tax policy to inflation, either producing widespread 
unemployment affecting ultimately workers in other countries. 
National selfishness, elaborated into slogans, could strand 
thousands of refugees homeless on an overpopulatcd continent 
while on another continent land without people awaited settlers. 
Irresponsible statements by political leaders could fan popular 
impatience into a general war which would arm Brazilians to 
fight Bulgarians. 

The decisions of intractable human wills are conceded a 
capital importance in the peaceful and equitable management of 
an interdependent, technological world society. The need of 
norms of conduct in international affairs and economic policies 
and die importance of their observance, if only in the interest of 
human survival, is a growing conviction in all countries. Indeed 
many serious commentators have not hesitated to speak of a 
crisis of contemporary civilization in moral terms, ascribing the 
root of present difficulties to man's refusal to submit to rules 

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of a mctanoia, a profound change of heart, if mankind is to 
surmount its present problems. 

In such a situation the judgment of religious groups is accorded 
a more attentive hearing. The very survival of organized religion 
whose disappearance was so confidently prophesied by the more 
sanguine spokesmen of the gospel of Progress a century ago, 
indeed its increasing vitality, have engendered at least a grudging 
respect. The failure of the creeds of secular mysticism is, to be 
sure, no argument for the validity of the assertions about man's 
nature and his destiny proclaimed by Christianity; the manifest 
insufficiency of other creeds to inspire a tolerably human order, 
and especially the disastrous consequences of political faiths 
relentlessly pursued, have, however, aroused a new awareness 
of the possible relevance of traditional religious values. A 
contemporary religious philosopher has remarked: It is not true, 
as seems sometimes to be said, that without God man cannot 
organize die world. What is true is that, in the last analysis, 
without God he can only organize the world against himself,' 
In thoughtful circles today such a verdict does not evoke the 
depreciatory dismissal that would have greeted it in even the 
politer salons a hundred years ago. 

This new receptivencss to the social criticism emanating from 
religious groups is, in part, a result of a new attitude of the 
Protestant communions particularly, a new accent in their public 
statements. The churches are by no means content to deplore 
the faithlessness of the modern world while encouraging the 
cultivation of private pieties. The Ecumenical Movement in 
modern Protestantism encompasses two tendencies: a search 
for the unity of the churches and, simultaneously, for the social 
consequences of religious truth. The sentimental, essentially 
subjective, conception of religion as affecting merely personal 
relations at most and, at its highest, as satisfying private needs, 
die notion that religion is concerned with die use one made of 
one's solitude, has given way to a new emphasis on the Christian 
community and on die responsibilities of die Christian to remake 
die world closer to the biblical ideals of justice and peace. The 


two tendencies ultimately took concrete form in two international 
organizations: the World Conference on Faith and Order, 
concerned with church unity, and the Universal Christian 
Conference on Life and Work, instituted to study the social 
implications of the gospel message. The World Council of 
Churches was born of die fusion of these two organizations. 

The purpose of the present study is to examine one of these 
twin tendencies in the Ecumenical Community, the tradition 
represented by the Life and Work Movement (and also by the 
defunct World Alliance for International Friendship through the 
Churches) and continued in the World Council of Churches. 

To this end it has seemed advisable to begin with an historical 
sketch of the World Council, its antecedents and development. 
Since the weight to be attached to pronouncements of the World 
Council and its subordinate organs demands an understanding of 
the authority each possesses, it has been necessary to attempt a 
definition of the nature and function of this instrument of the 
Ecumenical Community. As a 'fellowship of churches' the World 
Council includes within its membership different theological 
traditions importing diverse social outlooks and emphases. The 
section of the present study called 'The Social Philosophy of the 
World Council of Churches' endeavours to analyse these 
emphases and the ecumenical efforts to effect a synthesis of view- 
points on social questions and international affairs in the light of a 
common biblical inheritance. An analysis of the actual positions 
adopted on the problems of the day is the burden of the chapter 
entitled 'The Social Policy of the World Council of Churches', 
the material being organized, for convenience sake, under the 
headings of the divisions found in the Report of Section III of the 
First Assembly of the World Council at Amsterdam in 1948. 
A final chapter, 'Conclusions', offers an evaluation. 

The particular advantage of focusing attention on the World 
Council of Churches (and the antecedent tradition which it 
continues) is that there the consensus of the social tliinking of the 
Ecumenical Community and its common contribution to the 
history of social thought is concentrated. The editor of the 


Report of the Oxford Conference of 1937 on Church, Com- 
munity and State conceded that 'profounder, more penetrating, 
more illuminating discussions' of the subjects treated might well 
enough be found elsewhere; he pointed out, however, that the 
value of the statements issued by this parent organization of the 
"World Council turned precisely on the fact that representatives 
of diverse theological traditions were prepared to speak 'together'. 1 
More definite stands, more cogently argued, on the subjects 
engaging the World Council's attention may undoubtedly be 
found in the books of representative modern Protestant thinkers 
such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Emil Brumicr, Karl Barth, Paul 
Tillich John C. Bennett, V. A, Dcmaiit and Archbishop William 
Temple. In the World Council pronouncements, however, is 
found the official mind of the member churches and the common 
utterance of die diverse theological traditions on the social and 
international issues of the day. 

A few cautions may profitably be suggested to the reader. 
Only the declarations of the Assemblies of the World Council 
of Churches, convened every five years or so, and of the Central 
Committee between Assemblies represent the official position 
of the, Council. Such pronouncements, as will be seen later, do 
not commit the member churches. Exploring the mind of the 
Ecumenical Movement, the present study draws upon a mass of 
documentation, of differing degree of authority. In addition to 
Assembly Reports, 'received and commended to the churches 
for their serious consideration and appropriate action', there is 
material from conferences and publications more or less sponsored 
by die World Council but for which the Council takes no official 
responsibility; other citations will be observations made by 
participants in commission meetings and hence, palpably, the 
private opinions of individuals who, though active in the move- 
ment, are in no sense authorized spokesmen for the Council, 
Such opinions are introduced to show die range of viewpoints 
in the World Council constituency and to demonstrate the 

* J, H, Qldham (ed), The Churches Survey Their Task (hereafter referred to as Oxford), 
p. a<5. 


process of die ecumenical dialogue. The World Council Study 
Department followed a somewhat similar point of view in 
preparing for the delegates to the Evanston Assembly a sym- 
posium, 'Ecumenical Documents on Church and Society, 
1925-1953', compiled from sources beyond die restricted range 
of official Council pronouncements. Efforts will be made to 
indicate which positions have an official character as pronounce- 
ments of the World Council of Churches. They can be readily 
identified, being limited to the official Reports of the Amsterdam 
and Evanston Assemblies and die public statements of the Central 
Committee. Even these pronouncements have in the last resort 
authority only in so far as their intrinsic wisdom commends 
them to the member churches. This problem will be examined in 
the chapter entitled 'The Nature and Authority of the World 
Council of Churches'. 

Furthermore, while it is the public pronouncements of a 
World Council Assembly on a controversial issue of the day 
(such as die statement on Capitalism and Communism of the 
Amsterdam meeting) which interest the news editors of the 
world Press, these debates do not necessarily reflect the deepest 
concerns of the Council. A specific statement on a single theme 
should not distract attention from the general purpose of the 
Council which is to mobilize its membership for a whole gamut 
of responsibilities in the temporal order and, more profoundly 
still, to encourage unremittingly the union of the churches. 

Moreover, while alive to the social consequences of the religious 
imperative strikingly so in its work for refugees the World 
Council, being 'a fellowship of churches', has objectives and 
ideals which are not shared by organizations whose goals are 
exclusively humanitarian. The difference may be sensed in a 
dictum of Archbishop Temple who presided over the World 
Council in Process of Formation. 'The right relation between 
prayer and conduct,' His Grace of Canterbury remarked one 
time, 'is not that conduct is supremely important and prayer 
may help it but that prayer is supremely important and conduct 
tests it.' Archbishop Temple's interest in social problems was 


unfeigned; his personal effort to assure a wider recognition of the 
claims of social justice was unflagging; being a religious man, 
however, his scale of values was fixed by God's revelation and a 
spiritual purpose dominated all his activities. Similarly, as a 
religious organization, the World Council of Churches has a 
perspective other than that of a mere movement for social reform, 
and goals greater than the elimination of economic injustice and 
the preservation of world peace. It is the social criticism of the 
World Council of Churches which falls within the scope of this 
study. The writer is fully aware, however, that such an approach 
is not an adequate analysis of the total meaning of the organized 
form of the Ecumenical Movement. The ecclesiastical signifi- 
cance and theological interests of die World Council have engaged 
other pens. 

Again, die categories employed in the World Council's social 
diagnosis, die language of ecumenical discourse, may present 
some passing difficulties for, let us say, the lay reader. It is not 
surprising, given its membership, that the phrasing of the World 
Council's pronouncements is intransigcntly biblical. It is un- 
happily true, nevertheless, that such an idiom, such concepts 
even, are not universally and immediately intelligible today. 
Pastor Hans Asmussen of the Council of the Evangelical Church 
in Germany was conscious of the problem when he explained the 
criticisms of the 1945 Stuttgart Declaration acknowledging his 
church's share in the guilt of the German people. *A Christian/ 
he remarked, 'speaks a very special language which is not under- 
stood by everyone. The discussion, therefore, which took place 
in Stuttgart and its results may have the same effect as if two 
Germans conversed in the German language in the midst of a 
group of Chinese.' The writer has endeavoured on occasion to 
translate some of these unfamiliar phrases into terms less elusive 
to those unacquainted widi the idiom of Protestant dieology. 
How successful he has been is for others to say. To Mm, as a 
Cadiolic priest, die dieological approach of, say, Lutheranism 
or contemporary Bardoianism represents a different tradition, 
making particular demands upon his understanding. He lias, 


however, striven such indeed is the whole purpose of this 
study to comprehend clearly and to report faithfully his under- 
standing of the different traditions influencing the common 
attitudes and general policy of the World Council of Churches 
on the social problems engaging its attention. 

The question naturally arises as to what extent theological 
traditions actually influence social judgments, whether there are, 
in fact, grounds for ascribing specific social attitudes to con- 
fessional creedal positions. The supposition, if unqualified, can 
lend itself to oversimplifications, even to contradictions. 1 The 
personal experience of every individual, the history of his national 
group, the pattern of prejudices and cultural presuppositions 
inherited with one's economic status, the consequences for the 
evangelistic opportunities of his church following on political 
developments or social change, all these factors (not to speak of 
more human motives) inevitably colour one's social outlook and 
condition one's social judgments to a greater or lesser degree. 2 

For example, when a Czech theologian begins his comment 
on an essay describing political conditions in Central Europe, 
prepared for a World Council survey on international affairs, 
with the remark that his country's pre-war foreign policy was 
wrong because it was not oriented towards the USSR, the reader 
is justified in surmising that that political assessment is inspired 
more by Pan-Slavism than by the gospel insights possessed by the 

1 On hearing of Pastor Martin Nicmoller's offer to fight on the Nazi side during the 
last war, Karl Barth wrote: 'Do not forget that Nicmoller has always been and. remains 
today a good a too good German. . . . Do not forget that Nieraoller is also a good a 
too good Lxttheran, Lutheranism permits and demands the belief that there is a real 
chasm between the ecclesiastical and the political. At the bottom of this strange act of 
NiemMer's you will find the Lutheran dualism between the Kingdom of Heaven and 
the kingdom of the secular powers; between the gospel and the law; between the God 

revealed in Jesus Christ and God working in nature and through history There are 

some German theologians and Christians who are free of the ingredients of this doctrine. 
They arc just a few, you may be sure. But I fear that Nicmoller was never one of this 
small number. He is capable of letting himself be put to death by Hitler.' Cited by 
P, Ernest Johnson in The Social Gospel Re-examined, p. 34. But Barth does not find in 
NiemSller's Lutheranism an explanation of his neutralism in the face of Soviet Com- 
munism, a neutralism, incidentally, which die Swiss theologian endorses. 

a On this point the chapter, "The Revolution and the Churches', in Professor Denis 
Brogan's The Price of Revolution, should be read. 


Evangelical Church of the Czech Brethren. 1 South African 
politicians and even pastors may seek to justify a policy of 
apartheid on biblical precedent, but the suspicion lingers that the 
economics of cheap labour and the very human fear of cultural 
cngulfnicnt in the swelling Negro population are not negligible 
factors ill that policy. An argument can be elaborated 2 attribut- 
ing parliamentary democracy and religious toleration to a specific 
confessional tradition, but historians are inclined to yield the 
palm to the growth of the middle classes, to the spread of a new 
philosophy (sufficiently hostile to religion, incidentally) on the 
origin of society and to the need of social equilibrium and civic 
peace for untrammelled trade, 8 The slogan, 'Christianity is the 
religion of which Socialism is the practice', had wide resonance 
ill the heyday of religious liberalism in Europe and of the 
ascendancy of the Social Gospel Movement in America, Today 
it is probable that the majority opinion in Protestant circles in the 
United States holds Socialism, even as an economic system, to 
be 'anti-Christian' and certainly opposed to the religiously 
inspired 'American way of life'. Anglican theology is adequately 
expansive but surely the political preferences of the Dean of 
Canterbiiry are not derivable from any of the Thirty-Nine 
Articles of the Church of England no matter how flexibly inter- 
preted, Finally, the theological arguments advanced in West 
Germany recently against the morality of rearmament cannot 
be thought wholly uninfluenced by the (wholly understandable) 
desire of their proponents for the union of that divided nation 
and their determination to resist what they believe will freeze 
the present political division. 

No, any tracing of specific social judgments from given 
creedal positions is likely to be overaealous in intention and 

1 Professor Frantisek Bednar on a projected chapter for Volume IV of the Amsterdam 
Series (Archives), 

9 As by James Hastings Nichols ia Democracy and the Churches, 

8 As conceded by, for exaniple, H. Richard Niebuhr in The Social Sources ofDeiwrnlna- 
thnalism (p. 41) and C, E. Osbarne's Christian Ideas In Political History (pp, 154-60). 
Mare-Edouard Cheneviirc, in a doctoral thesis presented to the Faculty of Law of the 
University of Geneva, declared that *il n'y a aueuuw? pamie spiritudle cntrc l 
$t fo dnaocratte moderne*. La Peftsfa Polltlque He Calvin, p, 9, 


probably inaccurate in its result. An official of the World Council 
of Churches indicated to the writer that in a round-table discussion 
calling for a concrete solution in the economic order it would be 
impossible to identify the confessional allegiance of the participants 
from the conclusions they offered. On the other hand, theological 
traditions if they have any vitality or are adequately understood 
inevitably manifest themselves in different attitudes towards 
the social order, in the selection of subjects which are deemed 
important, and in the manner of approaching social problems. 
Thus it is not without significance that the effort to write pro- 
visions for the legal equality of wives into the UN Human Rights 
Convention evokes small enthusiasm from representatives of 
Moslem nations. Again, reliance on human prudence and the 
deduction of moral norms from rational analysis is considered 
by many in the World Council constituency as an affront to 
God's revelation contained in the Bible. Differences of social 
perspective do exist by reason of wide differences of theological 
belief. 1 These differences sometimes have repercussions in the 
political order, inescapably so when they affect the popular 
understanding of the State. 2 While it may well be impossible to 
sift the influence of various confessional traditions in judgments 
on a concrete social question, 3 it is possible to distinguish varying 
emphases deriving from crecdal positions. After all, a parent 
organization of the World Council edited a symposium on the 
social ethics of the several confessions. And Ernst Troeltsch is 
famous as the author of The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches. 

1 Prefacing the papers contributed to the ecumenical symposium, The Christian Faith 
and the Common Life, Dr. Nils Ehrenstrom, sometime Director of the World Council's 
Study Department, noted: 'The reader will soon become aware of the great and to some 
extent irreconcilable differences which emerge in these papers; they reflect the tragic 
divisions in the Body of Christ -which also exist in the social realm, divergences -which 
are not only conditioned by legitimate differences of judgment on the actual situation 
and its demands but also by the central convictions of faith.' p. >. 

* Adolf Keller found in the theologies of Calvinism and Lutheranism explanations of 
different attitudes among German Protestants towards the Nazi re'gime. Cf. his Church 
and State on the European Continent, especially p. 347. Reinhold Niebuhr argued that 
Lutheranism prepared the social soil for German Fascism Cf. his Christianity and Power 
Politics, pp. 49-51. 

8 For example, all the member churches of the World Council are for peace; some, 
however, advocate renunciation of armed force. 


Finally, an organization which publicly tells the world what 
is wrong with its economic order, which challenges current 
cultural standards and offers prescriptions for improving inter- 
national relations may seem, by reason of the sweep of its 
criticism and the ineffectiveness of its action, solemnly self- 
important. This study will be reporting the resounding con- 
demnations of forms of economic injustice, for example, issuing 
from ecumenical gatherings. The walls of Jericho are still stand- 
ing. The true proportions of the force of ecumenical opinion 
in modern society are nowhere more accurately recognized 
than among the officials of the World Council of Churches. 

Indeed, one may freely recognize the lack of decisive conse- 
quence of religious ideas generally in the shaping of contemporary 
society. While it is true that theology as an intellectual discipline 
enjoys more respect than was accorded it a hundred years ago, 
and though prayer and liturgical practices are not today so 
cavalierly dismissed as species of self-delusion and organized 
superstition, the impact of die ideas elaborated by religious 
groups on existing social institutions and political developments 
is not very impressive. 

There is in some Protestant circles, especially in the United 
States, a vague fear that the World Council of Churches represents 
the foreshadowing of a spiritual imperialism, threatening to 
establish a party-line in economic and, particularly, political 
questions. The limited resources of the Geneva Secretariat, 
quite apart from die restrictions of the Constitution of the World 
Council (not to mention the unresolved tensions within the 
ecumemcal family) makes such a development highly imaginary. 
Any such alarm should be readily quieted by a candid considera- 
tion of the relative impotence of religious forces in the shaping 
of modern society. Ours has been termed widi ample evidence 
a post-Christian era. The social survey, English Life and Leisure, 
made by B. Seebohm, Rowntrec and G, R. Lavers in 1951, 
revealed the practical irrelevance of Christian, concepts in die 
lives of large sections of die British population. Their con- 
clusions were confirmed for France by Dr. Simon Ligier's massive 


two-volume inquiry, L'Adulte des Milieux Ouvriers, published 
the same year. The bustling activity of religious organizations 
in the United States may conceal a weakness almost as great. 
Scientific research on a national scale is lacking but a survey 
made by a team of Columbia University sociologists of the social 
attitudes of the citizens of Akron, Ohio, indicated in passing 
that religious teachings had small impact on their judgments in 
concrete social situations. 1 The officials of the World Council 
of Churches would probably subscribe with only minor reserva- 
tions to the thesis argued by J. V. Langmead Casserley in the 
Maurice Lectures of King's College, London, for 1951, published 
as The Retreat from Christianity in the Modern World. That retreat, 
his evidence indicates, has followed two main avenues into 
irrcligion and, paradoxically, into 'religion', that is to say, into 
political faiths, superstitions of science and cultural absolutes as 
substitutes for Christianity. 

The delegates to the World Council's First Assembly were 
warned against any exaggerated notions of the importance of 
their influence. 'Among the outstanding leaders of human 
society in recent generations,' Emil Brunner told them, 'we find 
few Churchmen; other voices have possessed greater power of 
conviction and other minds more prophetic vision.' 2 

All of this is true and perhaps a little too obvious outside 
religious circles. What is missed, in consequence, is the evidence 
of the increasing vitality of religious thought and its endeavour 
to come to grips with the predicament of modern man living in a 
society dominated by technics with resulting social complications. 
Specialization, not least in the academic disciplines, has shunted 
theology to the province of a separate Faculty whose subject- 
matter is deemed peripheral to the educated man's main concerns 
and of interest only to those who have opted for an honorific 
if markedly unrcmunerative career of uncertain social utility. 
The intellectual contribution of religious groups towards the 

1 Alfred Winslow Jones (ed.), Life, Liberty and Property. 

a The Church and the Disorder of Society, p. 178 (hereafter referred to as CDS). The book, 
one of four symposia prepaicd for the four Sections of the Amsterdam Assembly, was 
distributed in page proofs to the delegates. 


solution of evident difficulties in constructing a truly humane 
Temporal City are, as a result, sketchily known in circles where 
snch ignorance is particularly unfortunate. Such ignorance may 
have more serious consequences. As competent an historian of 
civilizations as Arnold Toynbce, recalling the Christian origins 
of our Western convictions on the dignity of the person and the 
sacredness of individual liberty, has expressed his doubts that these 
values can endure when tlie religious roots which have sustained 
them find no nourishment in the intellectual diet of modern man. 
The suggestion may lend new pertinence to the present study 
of the social thought of the "World Council of Churches. Andre 
Siegfried believes so. The French economist closes his history 
of the social effects of Protestantism with an account of the 
growth of the Ecumenical Movement culminating in the forma- 
tion, of the World Council; he notes the persistent difficulties 
blocking the road to church unity and hails the common effort 
of the member churches for a just social order and a stable 
international society; this development, concludes M. Siegfried, 
represents 'in the history of Protestantism and indeed of 
Christianity in general, an event of capital importance, a mani- 
festation of the aspiratioMS, perhaps of the necessities of our age'. 1 

1 Las Forces Rdtgicuses et la Vie Polittqtie, p. 8. 



ON August 23, 1948, an event bringing to its culmination a 
significant movement in modern religious history occurred in 
Amsterdam. In the Main Hall of the Concertgebouw that 
Monday morning Pasteur Marc Boegner, President of the French 
Protestant Federation, proposed a resolution to an international 
gathering. The motion, as repeated by the Chairman, the 
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffrey Fisher, stated '. . . that 
the formation of the World Council of Churches be declared to 
be and is hereby completed'. It was adopted nemine contradicente 
by 351 delegates from 44 countries representing 147 churches and 
religious organizations. 1 The action answered an invitation 
extended ten years earlier by a Committee of Fourteen whose 
circular letter explained that the proposal to establish 'a 
consultative Body representing all Churches which accept 
its basis and approve its aims and to which each should 
bring its distinctive witness, arises by an inevitable process 
from the various movements since 1910 and especially those 
movements commonly called Life and Work and Faith and 

The vote of the Assembly at Amsterdam brought into being a 
permanent and official association of a large number of Christian. 

1 According to Harold Fey, correspondent of the Christian Century, non-denomina- 
tional American Protestant weekly, there were 352 delegates instead of the 450 expected. 
Only 24 of the 85 scats allotted to Orthodox representatives were filled. Christian Century, 
JQCV (October 6, 1948), 40, p. 1030. 

a Documents of the World Council of Cheches, p. 9. 


churches 1 who consider the Council a fellowship manifesting 
their unity, a conversation centre for their common search for 
full, organic union and a mechanism for the co-operative study 
and solution, in the light of Christian principles, of the pressing 
problems of contemporary society. 

"With the creation of the World Council of Churches the 
Ecumenical Movement took institutional form. Implying 
universality from its etymological meaning of 'the inhabited 
world', the Ecumenical Movement has been defined by the 
committee which prepared the semi-official History as covering 
'those aspects of Church History concerned: (a) with the bringing 
of individual Christians of different denominations together for 
purposes of co-operation; (6) with the bringing of different 
Churches as such together for purposes of co-operation; and 
(c) with the bringing of different Churches into union'. The 
range of such a definition is suggested by a bibliography of more 
than a,ooo volumes on ecumenicism appearing as early as 1936; 
it involves an account of the formation of Church federations in 
different countries, 8 of international confessional associations, 8 of 
church mergers and of interdenominational youth organizations 
as well; it includes inevitably an examination of the trends in 
theological opinion and social philosophy that presaged and 
facilitated common action. In its account of the World Council 
of Churches the present study will be content to indicate the 
influence of missionary and student movements and of the efforts 
to make religion relevant to social needs, particularly in the 

1 Except the Roman Catholic Church, absent by reason of her dogmatic position 
(i>te, that unity exists; and she is the centre and source of it) and the Orthodox Churches 
of the Moscow obedience whose refusal to participate will be discussed later. The 
Romaix Catholic position is set forth in the Encyclical MortttlititH Anlinos (1928) and the 
instruction of the Holy Office, De Motions Oectimenlca (Acta Apoatolicae Sedls, XVK, 
1950, pp. 142-7). A chapter by the Rev, Oliver S. Tomkins is devoted to the topic 
in A History of the Ecumenical Movement, i$i7-it)<i$ t edited by Ruth Rouse and Stephen 
Charles Neill (hereafter referred to as life/lory), pp. 6*77-03 . 

8 e,g, The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America, 1908; the Swiss Protestant 
Federationand the French Protestant Federation, 1909; theBritlsh Council of Churches, ig&A, 

t First Lambeth Conference (representing all the churches of the Anglican Communion), 
1867; Presbyterian World Alliance, 1:875; Methodist Ecumenical Council, 1881; Inter- 
national Congregational Union, 1891; Baptist World Alliance, 1905; Lutheran World 
Federation, 1:923. 


interests of world peace, merely adverting to the quest for Church 

i. The Problem in the Mission Field 

The delegates at the Amsterdam Assembly whose vote had 
just constituted the World Council of Churches had heard a 
speaker 1 declare the evening before: 'The Ecumenical Church 
is a child of the missionary movement.' They had convened 
as representatives of their respective churches in answer to a 
Letter of Invitation which had invoked the memory of the 
Edinburgh Conference of 1910 as an event of crucial importance 
in ecumenical history; 2 this Conference was the climax of the 
missionary enterprise of the nineteenth century which gave 
Protestant Christianity its global extension; 3 moreover it adum- 
brated the permanent, institutional form the Ecumenical Com- 
munity would adopt. 

Extensive missionary activity in the nineteenth century gave 
rise to the problem of mutual relations between denominations 
in the same field and suggested the possibility of common 
planning at home. The avoidance of sectarian competition 
supposed a delimitation of territories to be evangelized and an 
effort to preach 'the essentials of Christianity', forgetting 'the 
non-essentials' of denominationalism. The new Christians, 
moreover, manifested an impatience with what they deemed 
outmoded factional loyalties. The idea of the essential universality 
of Christianity, they felt, was obscured and even mocked by the 
multiplicity of ecclesiastical forms. At home the greater efficiency 
of pooled effort made an irresistible appeal; collaboration in the 

1 The speaker, John A, Mackay, Chairman of the International Missionary Council, 
explained: 'Churches, whose previous history had been marked by disunity, first began 
to manifest a spirit of understanding and co-operation upon the missionary frontier. 
Evangelical fellowship on the missionary road preceded ecclesiastical fellowship in the 
home sanctuary. Christian Churches which took seriously their missionary obligation 
and crossed the frontiers of non-Christian lands began to transcend the barriers by which 
they had been divided in their home countries.' 

"^Significantly, the History of the Ecumenical Movement chooses 1910 as the key date in 
its division of chapters. 

a In his magistral History of the Expansion of Christianity, Kenneth Scott Latourette 
devotes three volumes (iv, v, vi) to 'The Great Century, 1800-1914'. These were published 
as i unit. 


production of religious literature in the vernacular of the mission 
countries, common support of educational institutions, exchange 
of information on methods of evangelism seemed obvious if the 
forces of Protestant Christianity were to exploit effectively what 
was felt to be a great opportunity in world history. 

The World Missionary Congress which convened in the 
Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland on Edinburgh's famous 
Royal Mile in August 1910 was the seventh and most important 
of such international encounters called to formulate a common 
Protestant Christian strategy. Although it was agreed in advance 
that there should be no discussion involving ecclesiastical or 
doctrinal differences, the desire for unity expressed itself in a 
strong statement on the serious hindrance presented by Christian 
divisions. The delegates, official representatives this time of 
denominational mission boards, sensed above a programme of 
functional co-operation the vision of international Christianity. 
Before adjourning they established a Continuation Committee 
which during the war years provided crucial assistance to 
'orphaned' missions and led in 1921 to the formation of the 
International Missionary Council 1 which today links more than 

1 The significance of the meeting -was described by its Chairman, John R,. Molt, in 
these terms: 'The Edinburgh Conference has familiarized Christinas of our d,vy with this 
idea of looking steadily at the world as a whole, of confronting the world as a unity by 
the Christian Church as a unity.' Honorary President of the World Council of Churches 
at the time of Ms death in. 1955, Dr. Mott was so dominant during the formative yean 
of the International Missionary Council and of the "World's Student Christian Federation 
that their early history can largely be written in terms of his personality and activities. 
It is not without significance that John R. Mott was a Methodist of American pioneer 
stock; he once explained bis life as a response to the challenge of a travelling English 
Evangelist to 'seek first the Kingdom of God', an appeal which he said 'went straight to 
the springs of my motive life'. In the judgment of Walter Marshall Ilorton, when 
delivering the Hoover Lectures oa Christian Unity at the University of Chicago in lp,f 8: 
"If we ask what made Edinburgh possible, the first and most far-reaching answer is: the 
Evangelical Movement which renewed the life of the British and American churches between 
1738 [the date of Wesley's Aldersgate experience] and igio. Like the Continental pietists, 
their direct forerunners, the Anglo-Saxon evangelicals were not doctrinally indifferent 
but they thought only a few Christian doctrines really pertained unto salvation: those, 
namely, which had somcdiing to do with that strange warming and changing of the heart 
known as conversion or regeneration in which they saw the turning point of each man's 
eternal destiny. "If thy heart is as my heart," said Wesley, "give me thy hand," A deep 
communion of hearts was one of the fruits of the Evangelical Movement wherever it 
went, together with a consuming passion for bringing all men everywhere into this same 
blessed communion.' Towards a Reborn Church- 


thirty autonomous national councils of various constituencies, 
thus embodying the idea of federal unity. The IMC, today listed 
in all documents as 'in association with the World Council of 
Churches', is thus the direct outgrowth of the 1910 meeting on 
mission problems. 

2. The Influence of Student Groups 

At the ancient royal chateau at Vadstena, Sweden, in August 
1895 a group of young people gathered to found the World's 
Student Christian Federation. Its inspiration was markedly 
evangelical, its purposes were resolutely missionary. 1 Reviewing 
its achievements a half-century later, an historian observed: 'The 
creation of the World's Student Christian Federation was the 
logical result of the great missionary drive of the century: the 
Federation is the child of the mission movement.' 2 The religious 
impulse manifested in the growth of the Young Men's Christian 
Association, with its emphasis on the evangelization of the laity 
by the laity, received an additional imperative on American 
campuses. The new element was an absorbing interest in missions. 
Paralleling, perhaps, the new national consciousness of the 
importance of the United States in world affairs (jingoists were 
making political capital of the supposed responsibilities of 
'Manifest Destiny'), these student leaders were possessed by the 
idea of world evangelism and their part in it. The universities 
were conceived (as one book on the movement termed them) as 
'Strategic Points for the Conquest of the World'. The advantages 
of uniting Christian student groups in an international organiza- 
tion for common action in the personal and missionary apostolate 
was evident to these earnest and eminently practical minds. 

If the International Christian Student Movement owed its 

1 '(i) To unite the associations or organizations of Christian students of the entire 
world; (a) To gather information on the religious situation of students in all countries; 
(3) To promote the following activities: (a) to bring students to become disciples of 
Christ and recognize him as die sole Saviour and God, (b) to deepen the spiritual life of 
students, and (e) to enlist students for the work of spreading the Kingdom of Christ 
through the whole world.' Clarence P. Shedd, Two Centuries of Student Christian 
Movements, p. 36, 

a Suzanne de Didtrich, Clnqwnte Ans d'Histoire, p. 10, 


origins to the missionary impulse, the Ecumenical Movement, 1 
culminating in the World Council of Churches, is indebted to 
the Student Christian Movement in a fashion difficult to over- 
estimate. The generosity and world vision of Protestant youth 
groups one 2 in America, for example, adopted the motto, 
'The Conversion of the World in this Generation' supplied in 
later years the leadership of the ecumenical organizations. An 
old photograph of the four General Secretaries of the WSCF- 
sponsored international Christian student relief organization 
offers striking evidence: Dr. John R. Mott became Honorary 
President of the World Council, W. A. Visscr 't Hooft its 
General Secretary, Robert C. Mackie Associate General Secretary, 
and Henri-Louis Henriod served as Warden of the Ecumenical 
Institute, the study centre conducted by the World Council. 
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, who presided in 
May 1938 at the Conference at Utrecht which drafted the 
Constitution of the World Council of Churches, and served as 
Chairman of the Council's Provisional Coinmittcc, acknowledged 
that he glimpsed the possibilities inherent in the ecumenical ideal 
at meetings of the British branch of the WSCF, 'The great 
spiritual unity created by the Federation,' he wrote, 'appeared as 
an illustration of what the Church of Christ must become for 
all its members.' 3 The 1911 Congress of the Federation at 
Constantinople, which established the inter-confessional character 
of die organization, served as a bridge for Orthodox participation 
in ecumenical activities; it also witnessed the entry on the 
ecumenical scene of an Orthodox Seminary professor, the 
Reverend Germanos Strenopoulos, subsequently Archbishop of 
Thyateira and a President of the World Council of Churches. 
A delegate at the Life and Work Conference at Oxford in 1937, 
where plans were definitely formulated for the creation of the 
World Council of Churches, remarked that as she looked about 
her there was scarcely one of the leaders whom she did not 

1 The word first gained general currency, it is said, in "WSCF circles. 

2 The Student Missionary Volunteers. 

S T. Tatlow, The Story of the S.CM in Great Britain and Ireland, p. 613, cited in de 
Dietrich, p. 65. 


recognize as a fellow worker whom she had met at some earlier 
stage of her Student Christian Federation activity. 1 The remark 
could have been made with even more appositeness at the 
Amsterdam Assembly. 2 

Although die members of the Student Christian groups were 
in no sense representing their different communions the fact 
probably facilitated the building of friendships among future 
leaders of the different churches the experience of the Federation 
in constructing a union of national associations, fully autonomous 
but pledged to mutual assistance, undoubtedly influenced the 
structure of the future World Council. 3 Open to all the intel- 
lectual tendencies in the religious world, the Federation experi- 
enced the theological debates and spiritual tensions which are 
part of the continuing life of the Ecumenical Community. The 
Student World, the monthly organ of the Federation, discussed 
the questions which even today claim a large part of the table of 
contents of The Ecumenical Review, the quarterly of the World 
Council of Churches. The fact is scarcely surprising: Dr. W. A. 
Visser 't Hooft edited both publications. Can the Federation be 
considered the tap-root of the World Council? A participant in a 
discussion of the projected History of the Ecumenical Movement 
clearly thought so. He 'urged that the present ecumenical 

1 William Adams Brown, Towards a United Church, p. 34. The delegate was Miss 
Ruth Rouse. 

a As a further illustration of this continuity, it is noted that the hymnal and book of 
prayers compiled by the WSCF are currently used at WCC meetings. The English 
publisher for most of the literature on the World Council, moreover, is the SCM Press, 
owned by the British branch of WSCF. 

8 Among other personalities can be listed Archbishop So'derblom, whose attendance at 
WSCF international congresses was a prelude to his chairmanship of the Stockholm 
Conference on Life and Work; Joseph H. Oldham and William Paton, introduced to the 
mission apostolatc through the British unit of the Federation, die first being Organizing 
Secretary of the Oxford Conference of 1937 and inspirer of the central theme of Amster- 
dam's Commission III 'The Church and the Disorder of Society", the second being Secre- 
tary of the Provisional Committee of the World Council; H. P. van Dusen, Chairman of 
the World Council's Study Committee; Reinhold Niebuhr and John C. Bennett, 
Chairman and Secretary respectively of Amsterdam's Commission III not to speak of 
those whose part in their national student organizations introduced mem to the ecumenical 
world, such as Hanns Lilje and R. van Thadden of Germany, Josef Hromadka of Czecho- 
slovakia, L. Zander of Russia, Pasteur Pierre Maury of France, Bishop V. S. Azariah of 
India, etc. 


movement be recognized for what it is as growing out of the 
developments of the Student Christian Movement'. 1 

3. The Social Gospel 

Socialism arose during the nineteenth century on the European 
continent as a political protest against the economic evils resulting 
from the dominant philosophy of individualism. Religious 
voices, too, were raised (though somewhat later) expressing 
indignation over man's refusal to recognize his responsibility to 
his fellows. In England Methodist lay preachers were in the 
forefront of the nascent Trade Union movement and in the 
Church of England personalities such as F. D. Maurice, Charles 
Kingslcy, Scott Holland and Bishops Wcstcott and Gore were 
influential in organizations with the significant titles, 'The 
Christian Social Union', 'The Christian Social League', 'The 
Guild of St. Matdiew' and 'The League of the Kingdom of God'. 
In France the monthly organ of the Protestant Federation of 
Social Christianity began to appear in 1887; in Switzerland the 
name of Ragaz is remembered; in the United States the new 
accent on the social consequences of the Christian message, first 
announced after the Civil War by "Washington Gladden, was 
developed by later preachers such as George Herron, Sliailer 
Mathews, Francis Pcabody and especially by Walter Rauschen- 
busch whose thought had an international resonance. Scorning 
the tacit acceptance of the cruel abuses of industrial capitalism, 
by pulpits concerned only with the middle-class world of piety 
and private virtues, these prophets proclaimed the need -as the 
title of one of Rauschenbusch's books stated of 'Christianizing 
the Social Order'. The task, it was felt, was no less than the 
radical remaking of economic institutions according to a pro- 
gramme directly inspired by the gospel and heralded in Christ's 
teaching of His coming Kingdom. Shailcr Mathews of the 
University of Chicago was not hesitant: 
By the Kingdom of God Jesus meant an ideal (though progressively 
approximated) social order in which the relation of men to God is 
1 Minutes and Reports of (he Meeting of the Provisional Committee, Buck Hill Falls, Petin., 
April 1947, p. 40. The participant was the R.ev. Dr, Floyd Tompkins. 


that of sons, and therefore to each other, that of brothers This 

ideal is not beyond human attainment but is the natural possibility 
for man's social capacities and powers. 1 

An expression of the sanguine expectation of that outlook (and 
evidence of its widespread appeal) was a novel, In His Steps, 
written by a minister, the Reverend Charles Sheldon, and designed 
to be read from the pulpit. 2 According to the story each member 
of a fictional congregation pledges himself before every action 
to consider 'What would Jesus do?' and to act only in the light 
of the answer. The resolve results in a total transformation of 
the community. 

To assure this remaking of society demanded organization. 
Accordingly, in December 1908 the overwhelming majority of 
the Protestant Churches of the evangelical tradition in the United 
States formed the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in 
America 'to secure a larger combined influence for the Churches of 
Christ in all matters affecting the moral and social condition of the 
people, so as to promote die application of the law of Christ in 
every relation of human life'. 3 But the Social Gospel Movement 
was not merely an American phenomenon. The aspirations it 
expressed were a major preoccupation of Protestant thought 
throughout the world. 

The realization, induced by the First World War, of the 
interrelation of nations led the ranks of what was sometimes 
called 'Applied' or 'Practical' Christianity to join forces for 
international action. "Well before the outbreak of hostilities, 
British and German clergymen were at work to allay the growing 

1 The Social Teaching of Jesus, pp. 54, 77; quoted by J. C. Bennett in Protestant Thought 
in the Twentieth Century (New York: Macmillan, 1951), P- 128. 

s The novel, appearing in 1898, was translated into twenty-one languages and by 1933 
had sold 23 million copies, making it, it is claimed, the world's all-time 'best-seller' after, 
of course, the Bible. 

1 Prom the preamble to die Federal Council's Constitution, as quoted in Brown, 
op. cit., p. a. Other purposes are listed but a historian of the Council, John A. Hutchinson, 
asserts that the social application of the gospel was the dominant motive: We Are Not 
Divided, p. 35. See also Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social Gospel in American 
Protestantism, 1865-1^15, The author calls the Federal Council 'the climax of official 
recognition of social Christianity' (p. 302), Cf. also the critical but objective study, 
The Background of the Social Gospel in America, by Willem A. Visser 't Hooft. 


tension between their countries. On a visit to Berlin for the 
Kaiser's Jubilee in 1913 the American philanthropist, Andrew 
Carnegie, learned of the programme and, conceiving of religion 
as a happy solvent of national enmities, gave $2,000,000 to 
endow the Church Peace Union, an organization which, as 
sponsor of the World Alliance for Promoting International 
Friendship through the Churches, was to play a significant role 
in the evolution of the Ecumenical Movement towards its cul- 
mination in the World Council of Churches. 1 For it was at the 
meeting of the World Alliance, at Oud Wassenaer near The 
Hague in October 1:919, that the proposals emanating from 
England, Scandinavia, Switzerland, the United States and even 
Constantinople for an international meeting of Christian 
leaders were reduced to a concrete plan. 2 The Universal Christian 
Conference on Life and Work, parent organization of the 
World Council of Churches, was the result. 

4, The Quest for Christian Reunion 

The importance of close collaboration for the success of 
missionary endeavours was the reason for the calling of the 
Edinburgh Conference of 1910, Unity of action was the refrain 
of the meeting and a permanent secretariat was established to 
assure such unity. The prior agreement to by-pass doctrinal 
discussions while considering problems of collaboration seemed, 
however, stultifying to one delegate, the Protestant Episcopal 
Bishop of the Philippines, Charles H. Brent, Bishop Brent 
believed; 'it is little short of absurd to try to bring into the Church 

1 How pathetically Carnegie had misjudged the gravity of the international situation 
can be seen from a letter he wrote to the Secretary of the Church l?eace Union in February 
1914: 'Peace is about a reality now; and before you have gone very long, permanent peace 
will be established in the world, and then you will find yourselves trustees of a fund and 
will not know what to do with it,' The letter was read by the recipient (Henry A. 
Atkinson), reviewing twenty-five years of the history of the World Alliance for Friendship 
through the Churches at a meeting attended by representative* of twenty-two National 
Committees in Geneva, August 11-16, 1939. The toxtkin friendship Stands, Report for the 
Management Committee of the World Alliance (Geneva, ipjp), p. 7; quoted by Bhren- 
itrOm in History, p. 567, 

9 The history is related in Steps Towards a United Church, by Charles S. Maefarlaud, 
a member of the original Preparatory Committee for the meeting. 


of Christ the great nations of the Far East unless we can present 
an undivided front. For purely practical reasons we feel the 
necessity of the Church's realization of unity. It must be either 
that or failure in our vocation.' 1 Above the programme of 
functional collaboration Bishop Brent envisaged an organic 
union of the churches. 

It was on his initiative that the General Convocation of his 
Church, meeting in Cincinnati in October of that same year, 
issued an invitation 'to all Christian Communions throughout 
the world which confess our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour' 
to attend a conference to examine 'the questions concerning the 
faith and constitution of the Church' in the belief that 'the begin- 
nings of unity are to be found in the clear statement and full 
consideration of those things in which we differ, as well as those 
tilings in which we are one'. The dogmatic basis of unity had 
been devised at an earlier Convention of the same Protestant 
Episcopal Church in 1888. The Lambeth Quadrilateral, so termed 
after its adoption by the Anglican Conference of 1920, has four 
bases: the Bible, the Nicene Creed, the two Sacraments and the 
Historic Episcopate; it represented an initiative which Bishop 
Brent resolved to revive and extend. The war postponed definite 
arrangements for the proposed Conference while at the same time 
raising fresh problems for religious minds. It was not until the 
summer of 1927 that the theologians representing their various 
churches convened at Lausanne the World Conference on Faith 
and Order for the mutual explanation of their various doctrinal 
traditions. 2 A Continuing Committee gave permanence to the 
meeting and. arranged for further study in preparation for a 
second Conference. This was held in Edinburgh in 1937, and 

1 Alexander C. Zabriskie, Bishop Brent, p. pz. 

8 In the Hoover Lectures on Christian Unity at the University of Chicago, Professor 
Walter Horton thus describes the theological problem underlying the Lausanne dis- 
cussions: 'But just how does a church maintain communion with Christ? How does it 
ascertain whether its present life and teaching are continuous with the life and teaching 
of the Pounder? How can it be sure that its members are properly dependent on the one 
Head, its branches nourished from the one Taproot, its superstructure properly based on 
the one Foundation, its flock properly related to the one Shepherd? Here is the great 
point of divergence between Christian churches.' Horton, op. dt., p. 63. These questions 
relating to the nature of the Church, continue to be central in Faith and Order study. 


authorized its Continuing Committee, under certain conditions, 
to bring the Faith and Order organization into the proposed 
World Council of Churches as a permanent commission. 


For the initial meeting of the Universal Christian Conference 
on Life and Work, five years of preparation were needed before 
528 delegates of 31 churches from 38 nations gathered for the 
service of worship in the Storkyrkan, the Stockholm Cathedral, 
on August 19, 1925, The delegates had responded to a Letter 
of Invitation 1 declaring that 'the world's greatest need is the 
Christian way of life not merely in personal and social behaviour 
but in public opinion and its outcome in public action', a goal 
involving the responsibility of 'putting our hearts and our hands 
into a united effort that God's will may be done on earth as it is 
iti heaven'.* It was an ample undertaking expressed in confident 
language. 3 

1 The Conference was sponsored by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in 
America, the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the 
Churches, the British Conference on Christian Politics and Citizenship. The Uritish 
Conference COPEC -was sponsored by the Church of England and the British Free 
Churches and was held at Birmingham, April 5-ia, 1934. Its declared basis was 'the 
conviction that the Christian faith, rightly interpreted and consistently followed, gives 
the vision and power essential for solving the problems of today, that the social ethics of 
Christianity have been greatly neglected by Christians with disastrous consequences to 
the individual and to society, and that it is of first importance that these should be given a 
clearer and more persistent emphasis'. Reports i, p. iv. Reviewing the Conference 
twenty-three years later, Maurice D. Reekitt could find 'no insights to challenge the 
attention 1 . Minifies to Tfmpk t p. 172, COPBC was, however, of much the same inspira- 
tion and outlook as Stockholm, and its seven volumes of Reports formed part of the 
preparation for the first Life and Work Conference, 

* To this end*, continued the letter, "... we will consider such concrete questions as 
that of industry and property, in relation to the Kingdom of God; what the Church 
should teach and do to help to create right relations between the different and at times 
warring classes and groups in the cowimunity; how to promote friendship between the 
nations and thus lay the only sure foundation upon which permanent international peace 
an be built;'. G. K, A, Bell (ed,) The Stockholm Conference oft$%$ (hereafter referred to 
as Stockholm)) p. x8. 

Immediately following the opening service, the delegates were received at the 
Palace by the King of Sweden who assured them that the aim, of the Conference was no 
less important than that of the Council of Nicea, Stockholm, p. 46. The purpose of Nicea 
had been to define the nature of Christ and therefore the essential content of the Christian 


The scope of the Conference had been limited to 'united 
practical action . . . leaving for the time our difference in Faith 
and Order'. 1 But on what levels of action should Christian 
forces function? By providing a Christian programme to match 
the Socialist programme, as one delegate suggested? 2 Or by serving 
as the 'soul' for the new instruments of international political and 
social collaboration, as another delegate urged? 3 A sometime 
Professor of Ethics called attention to the difficulties of applying 
Christian principles to concrete problems, given the complicated 
structures of modern social living and the consequent danger 
either of meaningless generalizations or of unauthoritative private 
opinions. 4 Was united practical action possible without unity of 
faith? 5 The current slogan announcing that 'doctrines divide, 
action unites', was soon seen as no adequate answer to the 
irrepressible question of the significance, indeed of the need, of 
theology. The American delegate who remarked: 'All you do in 
theology is useless for our practical task,' revealed the widespread, 
probably dominant, instrumental conception of Christianity 

1 The determination to avoid theological discussion led the organizers of Stockholm 
to reject the suggestion that the Conference be held close in time and location to the 
Conference on Faith and Order. Over the signatures of Archbishop Soderblom, Chair- 
man, and Henry A. Atkinson, General Secretary, a letter was sent on April 14, 1923, to 
Richard Gardiner, Secretary of the Faith and Order Preparatory Committee, explaining 
that the International Committee was 'unanimous on the wisdom of keeping the two 
Conferences entirely distinct . . . Life and Work to confine itself in the main to co- 
operation for the application of the Spirit and Teaching of Christ to social, national and 
international relationships while Faith and Order devotes its attention to the ultimate 
and more remote goal of unity.' Cf. Macfarland, op. dt,, p. in. 

a Stockholm, p. 56, 

8 Ibid,, p. 172. 

* The Rt. Rev. E. Billing, Bishop of VSsteras, Sweden, noted that 'one stands before 
the painful alternative of either talking in such general terms that such talk altogether 
loses its point, or [of] losing oneself in technicalities in the widest sense, and thus postulat- 
ing as a necessary item of faith something which in reality is only a private opinion, or 
perhaps the creed of a party'. Ibid., p. 194. 

8 Pasteur Wilfred Monod asserted that the methodology of hypotheses was employed 
at Stockholm: 'Recourse was had to die rule counselled by psychologists and pastors: 
"act as if. . ." We proceeded as if the Church of Christ on earth presented a single 
battle-line under a single commander.' The same delegate observed that the Conference 
distinguished between faith and belief. Since faith, in the Evangelical meaning of the 
word, is a spiritual attitude, a religious experience, the same 'belief can express itself in 
many 'beliefs', he argued. The influence of Ritschl is evident. La Conference Universelle 
du Christionisme Pratique, pp, 47, 48. 


as providing inspiration for human betterment. 1 Was Christianity 
profoundly more than a precious solvent of social conflicts, 
larger in importance than an agent for achieving desirable social 
reformsthe abolition of prostitution, the control of alcoholism, 
the cleansing of municipal politics, the humanizing of the peniten- 
tiary system, the alleviation of unemployment and the outlawing 
of war? The continental delegate who remarked that he 'would 
as soon think of asking his ten-year-old daughter just back from 
Sunday School for a theological opinion as of asking an American', 
clearly thought so. 3 To avoid theological discussion it had been 
decided to confine consideration of the first of the six main 
subjects of the Conference 'The Church's Obligation in view 
of God's Purpose for the World -to a public presentation by 
seven spokesmen of different ecclesiastical traditions. 

Despite the easy assurance of a French spokesman of the Social 
Gospel, 8 it was immediately evident that varying theological 
conceptions conditioned alt viewpoints on temporal topics. The 
preacher at the opening service had proclaimed; 'We believe in 
the Kingdom of Heaven. We arc conspirators for its establish- 
ment. That is why we arc here. That is the meaning of this 
Conference/ 4 Two speakers at the opening session had challenged 
the delegates to make a new social effort 'in order to accelerate 
the coming of the Kingdom of God', to be rebuffed by a Lutheran 
Bishop: 'Nothing could be more mistaken or more disastrous 
than to suppose that we mortal men have to build up God's 

* Adolf Keller, 'Stockholm ipas in the Light of 1950*, ERn (Summer 1950). 4. p- 37- 
a fl Willard L Sperry, Religion In America, p. 134, 

Pasteur Elk Gounelle: 'This Conference is deeply divided on, the question of the 
morning to be given to the scriptural idea, which inspires us all, of the Kingdom of God. 
Some arc only willing to see in it a synonym foe salvation by grace, or for forgiveness, 
others see in it a new material social order ruled by God, But whatever our explanation 
of the Kingdom of God may be, whether spiritual or material, individual or social, is of 
little account after all, The relations between nations, as a practical matter for all of us 
who aw here, ought to be governed by die laws of this Kingdom,' Stotkholm, p. 433. 
The speaker suipeeted that the German separation of the interior realm of religion from 
the political and social world, each with its autonomous laws, 'was a. refuge for reactionary 
and militarist workings against the Republic, democracy, socialism and pacificism', 
Cf. IM Confirmee Uttlwfselle ttu Chrtsttantsmc Pratique, p. 108, 

* Sf&ekkolm t p, 38. The preacher was the R.t, E,ev, Theodore Woods, the Anglican 
BUhop of Winchester, 


Kingdom in the world.' 1 The division of opinion concerned the 
reason for calling the Conference to determine the role of 
religion in social life; it raised the question as to whether there 
could be a specifically Christian judgment on social problems. 2 
The problem was of more than academic interest. 'When pressed 
to their source the differing attitudes towards Christian duty were 
seen to be rooted in theological differences', the Chairman of the 
Life and Work Executive Committee was later to note. 3 Eventu- 
ally, the problem compelled the setting up of a committee of 
theologians whose discussions brought the Life and Work move- 
ment closer to Faith and Order activities and thus contributed to 
the future formation of the World Council of Churches. 

i. After Stockholm 

The Stockholm Conference can be fairly described as an 
impressive, ten-day public demonstration during which the 
fact that Christianity has social consequences was asserted 
in three languages and the complexity of the problems 
arising from that assertion profitably, if disconcertingly, dis- 
covered. A Continuation Committee was named to pursue 
the objectives of the Conference and to plan for later meetings; 
it was this Committee which in 1930 transformed itself 
into a permanent organization with the tide, the Universal 
Christian Council for Life and Work. 4 Led by dedicated 

1 Ibid., p, 76, The speaker was the Rt. Rev. Ludwig Ihmels, Bishop of Saxony, who 
also said, 'Thus we learn from Holy Scripture that the Church has only one task which 
is to bear witness to Him who was and is and is to come. . . . We can do nothing, we have 
nothing, we are nothing.' 

' The Chairman, Archbishop Nathan Soderblom of Stockholm, in a letter summarizing 
his impressions two months after the Conference, put his finger on the touchstone of 
divisions: 'Is the Kingdom, of God a force immanent in humanity, a programme to be 
advanced by energetic and enthusiastic human activity? Or is it a judgment and a salvation 
wrought by God, working in an inscrutable fashion, through the ages to the fulfilment 
of history, a specifically divine activity before which we must bow in adoration even 
though it escapes our poor human comprehension?' La Conference Universelle du 
Chtlstiattisme Pratique, p. 2. 

8 Brown, op. cit., p, 91. 

* European theologians, prone to consider Americans superficial, could point to 
arguments such as; 'In our great cities, in four of our commonwealths and in the nation, 
the Council of Churches is tP the religious life what the Chamber of Commerce is to the 
business life.' Rev. Roy Guild, Stockholm, p. 696. Earlier, another American had 


pioneers 1 the Life and Work Movement sponsored a short-lived 
Institute of Social Christianity; 8 a Secretariat at Geneva carried 
on a programme of ecumenical education and, within the limits 
of its possibilities, of social action, 3 

explained the value and origin of the Federal Council, observing that 'the woeful waste 
of energy and jubilance due to the overlapping of saurian anises and to competitive 
c hurdtes offended the decided preference which Ameiieam have for ellideuey as against 
traditions, In A country governed by public opinion it is of first-rate consequence that 
religious propaganda slull be sound, reasonable, well-informed and also well-organized. 
. . , We can obtain a wider hearing for the essentials which underlie denominationalism 
than for the beliefs peculiar to any single denomination.' Rev. S. Parkcs Cadman, 
Stotkhfflnt, pp. <ifl*o.-7o. 

1 Dr. Adolf Keller, who directed the Institute and Secretariat, recalled: 'The Stockholm 
Movement was mostly an army without troop*. The ecumenical idea penetrated only 
with majestic slowness into the rank and file of the Churches.' Keller, op. cit. An 
American member of the World Council's Central Committee has questioned how 
deeply 'the ecumenical idea 1 has penetrated the membership of its constituency. Cf, Angus 
Dun, 'We Intend to Stay Together', B7i it (Spring 1950) , 3, p. 267. Dr. Samuel MeCrea 
Cavert, Associate General Secretary of the World Council, expressed his satisfaction 
thac 'the churches have been represented at Evanston by outstanding national leaders 
[who] have given convincing evidence that they genuinely believe in an ecumenical 
advance;' he added, however, 'The World Council must frankly admit that the average 
church member does not see far beyond his denominational boundary or even his parish." 
JBPS, August 30, 1954, 

8 At Stockholm the Bishop of Vitsteias had called for the setting up of 'an international, 
scientific, ethico-sodologkal institute' where the facts and functioning of contemporary 
society eould be studied and the information and advice made available 'for such com- 
munities as labour for the social and moral welfare of humanity'. Pastor Elie Gounelle 
had urged the establishing of an institute to study particularly the situation of the working 
class. Cf, Stotklwtnti pp. *y3. i?x The World Council of Churches is presumably per- 
manently conscious of the need of such a social research centre. 

a The key figure was Dr. Adolf Keller whose career as an ecumenical ambassador 
began in 19x9 when he was sent by the Swiss Protestant Federation to the Federal Council 
of the Churches of Christ in America with a view to establishing what later became the 
Central Bureau for Inter-Church Aid whose activities were subsumed into the Life and 
Work orbit, Before its merger with the World Council of Churches in 1945 as its Depart- 
ment of Reconstruction, the Bureau had, over Che years, dispensed xa million. Swiss 
francs in relief work. Ecumenical Summer Schools were organized, a weekly 'Inter- 
national Christian Press and Information Service' (to become later the World Council 
sponsored 'Ecumenical Press Service*) was issued, inquiries were organised ou current 
problems of unemployment;, alcoholism, religious persecution in Russia, etc., collabora- 
tion was maintained with international organisation*, particularly with die International 
Labour Organisation aud with the Naiwen Committee. Cf. En mafche vem I'utiitt! chrMentte 
* TW i part du ChrisilMime Social jati,-ffiv, 1937, Financial stringency forced the fusion 
of the administrative headquarters of the Life and Work Movement with the Secretariat 
of the World Alliance for International Friendship and the suspension of its quarterly 
periodical, but tliere is a genetic relationship between the activities of the Geneva Secretariat 
of those years and much of the work of the present World Council of Churches, Thus, the 
WotW Council's Study Department is a direct continuation of die Research Department 
of the Life and Work Movement, 


The 193 o's, however, refused to confirm the bright expectations 
of the post- Versailles world of the Stockholm Conference. A 
world-wide economic crisis shattered for ever belief in the inherent 
equilibrium, of the mechanisms of industry and trade which would 
automatically distribute in greater abundance the fruits of an 
ever-expanding prosperity. The benign harmony of nature, which 
an easy optimism supposed needed only to be lubricated with the 
religiously inspired sentiment of goodwill, turned out on closer 
examination to have uncertain foundations. Psychologists, 
plumbing the personality, found dark depths, nurturing blind 
and malign urges. The very structure of matter lost its comforting 
solidarity when mathematics and the microscope combined 
forces to demonstrate that the familiar atom, building-block of 
the universe, was compacted of impalpable electrical energy. 
The security of the Acquisitive Society which had regarded 
all mcta-economic considerations as remnants of unscientific 
superstition or products of unproductive romanticism, was 
challenged by political religions which promised the dispossessed, 
the social outcasts and the rancorously restless, goals for living 
larger than those conceded to the mythical Economic Man. 
As the League of Nations revealed its essential impotence to 
control contemptuous violations of the political status quo, there 
was no safety in recalling the assurance of Woodrow Wilson: 
'National purposes have fallen more and more into the background 
and the common purpose of enlightened mankind has taken their 
place.' Confronted by a Volk in jackboots and Stahlhelme, a 
balance of power, whicla the American President believed belonged 
to an era happily left behind', was nervously sought. 

The Ecumenical Movement was similarly traversed by a 
ground-swell of protest against its intellectual prepossessions. 1 
The rise of 'dialectical theology', which received its name from 

1 At a meeting of the Universal Christian Council of Life and Work in 1933 a German 
delegate shocked the exponents of the Social Gospel by impugning the Conference of 
Stockholm which had given birth to the organization. Its message is obsolete ... the 
offspring of the humanitarian ideals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. . . . 
The rising Reformation theology today would put a critical question-mark at almost 
every sentence in it.' No wonder the Chairman saw a 'need for reinforcing the motives 
which furnish the Movement with its driving power'. Cf. Ehrenstrbm in History, p. 560, 


Kierkegaard and its impetus from Barth, challenged the identifi- 
cation, widespread in Life and Work circles, of the Kingdom of 
God. with an ideal social order realizable in this world; it scorned 
the assumption that human behaviour was conditioned essentially 
by environment rather than by sin; it mocked the bland hope 
that social ills could be healed by education and mutual under- 
standing, 1 

In Germany especially, the controversy on the theological 
justification of Christianity had ceased to be an idle academic 
debate. Members of the 'Confessing Church* were quietly seized 
and dispatched to concentration camps while 'German Christians', 
willing to accommodate doctrine to the demands of a victorious 
ideology, were favoured by a regime which appointed a 
Rciclisbischof to prove its regard for religion. The pretension of 
the modem State to control all the areas of life showed itself in 
all its malevolence and brutal power where an official ideology 
reinforced the dictatorship; disturbing tendencies in the same 
menacing direction, however, were noted in other lands. With 
belief in society as a commimtas a>ww//wY^M irreparably fractured, 
the integuments of national life were being riveted together by 
man-made myths, 

2* Oxford, ipj7 

The theme for the scheduled World Conference was not 
difficult to find; 'Church, Community and State'. In the inter- 
relation of these social realities, declared the Letter of Explanation 
to the Churches, 'is focused the great and critical debate between 
die Christian faith and the secular tendencies of our time. In this 
struggle die very existence of the Christian Church is at stake,' 

To examine the scope and explore the implications of that 

1 Karl Barth has thus described the state of theology after the First World War; 
'Dans Forthodoxie, cratallisatiou dc la doctrine ddtachde dc ses origines; dam Ic pititismc, 
fuite duns Tcxp&icnce chrtftiewic coufondue Ik tort avec son originc; dam la philosophic 
des lumites, reduction tits la doctrine, quo Ton ne compread plus, & da maximei 
morales ou scotimcntales; cnfin, cliez Schleiermacher et dies; ses SUCCCMCUM de droitc ou 
dc gauche, reduction de I'expirience chr^ticime elle-mAme Si regression, suprfime dc 
I'hutinct JreMgieujc uoiversel. Tejles sont les quaeres pierres d'anglc de la prison dans 
e now ItiotM cnft*m&/ Parole 4e Dleu, Parole tXmaine, pp. 243-4. 


'great and critical debate', a series of symposia was organized on 
different aspects of the central theme, the papers being circulated 
for comment among a wide range of specialists before being 
re-edited by the original contributors for publication as back- 
ground volumes of the Conference. 1 Oxford's Sheldonian 
theatre was the scene of the second World Conference on Life 
and Work which opened on July 12, 1937, with 300 delegates, 
named by more than 120 churches in 45 countries, present. 
Consultants chosen for their professional competence, youth 
leaders looking forward to their own international rally in 
Amsterdam in 1939, and the visitors found the general theme 
divided into five fields for closer examination. 2 Separate Sections 
of about eighty members considered (i) The Church and the Com- 
munity (or, in the wider meaning current in Germany, das Volk), 
(2) The Church and the State, (3) The Economic Order, (4) Edu- 
cation, (5) The World of Nations. There were, to be sure, public 
meetings as at Stockholm, but the record indicates that Oxford 

1 The General Editor and organizing genius of the Conference was Dr. Joseph H. 
Oldham, borrowed from the International Missionary Council in 1934, and made Chair- 
man of Life and Work's Research Department. A conference of theologians and jurists, 
meeting in Paris that same year, produced a symposium, Die Kifche und das Staatsproblem 
in der Gegenwart; with two other ecumenical inquiries directed by the Geneva Secretariat, 
Tatakr Staat nnd Christliche Freiheit and Kirche, Staat tmd Mensch: Russisch-Orthodoxe 
Studlen, it provided material for the survey The Christian Faith and the Modem State, 
edited by Nils Ehrcnstrom. Dr. Oldham enlisted the services of a young Dutch theologian, 
W. A. Visscr 't Hoofc, familiar as General Secretary of the WSCF with the various 
traditions of the ecumenical world, to collaborate with Win in producing the basic study 
on the Oxford theme, The Church and its Function in Society. The background volumes 
were entitled: Church and Community; Church, Community and State in Relation to Education; 
The Universal Church and the World of Nations; The Christian Understanding of Man; The 
Kingdom of God and History; and The Christian Faith and the Common Life. The London 
firm of George Allen & Unwin was publisher for the series. 

a Dr. Oldham saw the significance of the central theme of the Conference in major 
terms; its analysis, he believed, would cast light on the basic problem of the hour, the 
shape and civilization of the future: 'The struggle today concerns those common assump- 
tions regarding the meaning of life without which, in some form, no society can cohere. 
These vast issues are focused in the relation of the Church to the State and to the com- 
munity because the non-Christian forces of today are tending more and more to 
find embodiment in an all-powerful State which is committed to a particular philosophy 
of life and seeking to organize the whole of life in accordance with a particular doctrine 
of the end of man's existence and in an all-embracing community of life which claims 
to be at once the source and the goal of all human activities : a State, that is to say, which 
aims at being also a Church.' The Christian Faith and the Common Life, p. ix. 


was more of a working Conference than a demonstration. An 
impressive amount of preparatory work had been undertaken to 
present an adequate consensus of opinion of the different ecclesi- 
astical traditions. The voices of German theologians were not 
heard at Oxford, the Nazi regime having refused passports to the 
delegates; their thought was available, however, in papers which 
served as background material for discussions in the Sections. 
The attendance of distinguished scholars and men of experience 
in large political affairs guaranteed a note of proportion and 
actuality in the Conference's pronouncements. The Section on 
Church and State, for example, was chaired by Max Huber, 
former President of the "World Court and later of the International 
Red Cross; Alanson B. Houghton, sometime US Ambassador 
to the Court of St. James, and Francis B, Sayre, Assistant Secretary 
of State, were among the American members of the same group. 
The most distinguished authority of the English-speaking world 
in the field of Political Science, Professor Ernest Barker of 
Cambridge, participated in the discussions on Church and 
Community presided over by Sir Walter Moberly, Chairman of 
England's University Grants Committee. Economists of the 
standing of John Maud, R. H. Tawney, Sir Josiah Stamp, Andre 
Philip and Sir Alfred Zimmcrn were on hand to share their 
historical and scientific information with the theologians. 

What was the effect of this venture of collaborative thought 
'to define the points in the contemporary situation at which the 
specifically Christian understanding of life is crucially involved'? 1 
The Professor of Church History in the University of Chicago, 
J. H. Nichols, believed that 'the authority of the Oxford Reports 
was unprecedented, at least in Protestant social ethics, and their 
competence enabled them to rank with the best of secular thought, 
a phenomenon scarcely seen since the seventeenth century'. 2 
Dr. Visser *t Hooft was later to note that the study volumes, 
especially, on die Oxford theme served to stimulate thinking in 

1 Oxford, p. 26, Action would be the tost x Dr. Oldham's judgment, action to be 
measured by the effort to 'evoke and educate a conscience which may help to save society 
from corruption and decay'. Ibid, p, 48. 

8 Democracy and the Churches, p. 235, 


theological faculties, in forums and among lay groups; direct 
comment on the reports, solicited from the Churches, was 'dis- 
appointingly meagre', he added, attributing the silence to the 
fact that 'most Churches had as yet no corporate and relevant 
teaching on the problems of society and felt, therefore, unable to 
express an official opinion on the findings of Oxford'. 1 Thus, 
the delegates were divided on the moral permissibility of bearing 
arms under modern conditions of warfare, though unanimous in 
seeing it as a fruit and manifestation of sin. The message of the 
Oxford Conference was under no illusions: it felt obliged to 
inculcate the unity of Christians in an unbroken fellowship of 
prayer 'if war breaks out'. Unity in Christ, not as a theme for 
aspiration but as an actuality already illustrated at Oxford, was 
the central affirmation of the message. And, reviewing areas of 
possible Christian action to transform international life, the 
Conference did not fail to note 'the efforts of those movements 
which are working for the cause of international understanding 
through the Churches [and to] rejoice in the decision ... to 
recommend the creation of a World Council of Churches'. 2 

3 . Negotiations with the Faith and Order Movement 

The pressure of political developments, plus a general deepening 
of theological perspective in the Protestant world, had been 
drawing the Life and Work and the Faith and Order movements 
closer together. The Christian duty to reform the social order 
was more and more sensed in Life and Work circles to be that of 
witness to a single community of the redeemed, existing somehow 
by divine action. Fascism's contribution to the Ecumenical 
Movement was a heightening of the realization of that com- 
munity. Certainly it was not an invisible Church which the 
rampaging totalitarians were determined to suppress if they 
could not, preferably, gldchschalten it. The Faith and Order 
Movement from its side could not ignore the theological implica- 
tions of this sociological phenomenon, this rise of a Counter- 
Church. Economic factors also played a part in the growing 
1 The Ten Formative Years, p. 28. a Oxford, p. 187. 


desire to pool the two movements of ecumenical significance 
which perforce depended for financial support on largely die 
same constituency. 

Authorized conversations between the leadership of the two 
movements resulted in a detailed plan for a World Council of 
Churches. Before adjourning its two weeks' Conference at 
Oxford, on July 2(5, 1937, the Universal Christian Council for 
Life and Work accepted the proposal that it should surrender its 
interests to the new, more comprehensive organization. The 
Conference on Faith and Order, meeting in Edinburgh on August 
3-18, attached conditions to its approval of the project, demanding 
guarantees that the proposed World Council would respect its 
identity and specifically theological task. A constitution and 
plans for a provisional organization were drawn up at Utrecht 
on May 9-12, 1938, by a Committee of Fourteen, named by the 
two parent movements. No place had been made in the World 
Council structure for die International Missionary Council, a 
federation of combined denominational mission boards and 
national councils, but a Joint Committee was organized to serve 
as a bridge for the two-way traffic in ecumenical ideas to and from 
the mission lands. 

Widi a courage that rose above the forebodings of war the 
Provisional Committee looked forward to August 1941 when 
die Assembly of the Churches would bring the World Council 
into existence and discharge them of their responsibility for 
supervising an organization 'in Process of Formation'. In die 
event, the Provisional Committee was compelled to supervise 
the Geneva Secretariat of the organised expression of the 
Ecumenical Movement, with its title so qualified, for ten years 
through difficulties unforeseen at the time but with unexpected 
opportunities for service as well. Decentralization, with offices in 
London and New York and co-operation supplied by the Northern 
Ecumenical Institute at Sigtuna, Sweden, made possible a 
tenuous contact with its war-torn constituency; geography gave 
Geneva an. obvious advantage and the ingenuity and audacity 
of die headquarters staff ensured that ecumenical thinking, 


especially on the character of the post-war world, was com- 
municated, to both sides of the battle-front. The war-time 
preoccupations of the Geneva office of the World Council of 
Churches in Process of Formation were by no means confined 
to communicating information and inspiration. Pressing practical 
tasks were undertaken; chaplaincies for prisoners of war were 
organized, and Bibles and religious reading distributed in camps, 
while planning went forward on the prodigious problems of 
emergency aid when the fighting would cease. A department of 
Reconstruction and Inter-Church Aid, functioning on the 
principle that 'all Churches which can help shall come to the 
rescue of all the Churches which need help', was set up and ready 
from the first moment to co-operate with UNRRA. Supplying 
temporary prefabricated churches, paper for die production of 
religious literature, medical care and vacations for ailing church 
workers, and arranging theological scholarships were its main 
projects. Its Refugee Commission grew to an enterprise account- 
ing for the largest share of the personnel at the Geneva head- 
quarters. Its activity in co-ordinating the work of denominational 
relief committees and promoting the settlement of refugees is 
beyond the scope of this study. Work for refugees continues 
to be a major part of the activities of the Geneva centre of die 
World Council. 

4. Preparations for Amsterdam 

The Provisional Committee of the World Council met for 
the first time after the war at Geneva in February 1946. Review- 
ing developments and surveying possibilities, the meeting fixed 
the date of the constituting Assembly, chose for its theme, 'God's 
Order and Man's Disorder', elected five Presidents representative 
of different theological and ecclesiastical traditions in the organ- 
ized Ecumenical Movement, 1 accepted a gift from John D. 
Rockefeller, Jr., to purchase die Chateau of Bossey, near Geneva, 

1 The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Geoffrey Fisher; the Archbishop of Uppsala, 
Dr. Erling Eidem; the Archbishop of Thyateira, Dr. Germauos Strenopowlos; Pasteur 
Marc Boegner and Dr, John R. Mott. 


as an educational centre and conference locale, approved plans 
looking to consultations with the Russian Church and appointed 
a delegation to visit the Orthodox Churches of the Middle 

It was decided that the main theme, 'Man's Disorder and God's 
Design', 1 would be examined under four aspects each reflecting 
a facet of the comprehensive bearing and collective interest of 
the World Council membership and would be discussed separately 
in sectional gatherings at the Assembly to meet in two years at 
Amsterdam, 'The Universal Church in God's Design', the topic 
of Section I, was manifestly a theological inquiry primarily and 
as such a prolongation of Faith and Order studies. 'The Church's 
Witness to God's Design', the title of the topic of Section II, was 
concerned with missionary problems and techniques of con- 
temporary evangelism. The traditional emphasis of Life and 
Work on social and economic problems predominated in the 
subject-matter of Section III, 'The Church and the Disorder of 
Society' and of Section IV, 'The Church and the International 
Disorder'. Sectional Commissions were organized to prepare a 
volume on each topic, with contributors to the symposia being 
asked to keep two emphases in mind evidence of the rebirth 
of the Churches and of their growing unity. The preparation for 
Section IV was entrusted to the newly-formed Commission of 
the Churches on International Affairs, an agency jointly sponsored 
by the World Council of Churches and the International Mission- 
ary Council to advise the parent bodies of world order issues, to 
represent them at United Nations and other international 
organizations, and to clarify the ecumenical conscience on matters 
involving inter-governmental relations. 2 

1 The social pessimism of the first formulation of the theme, 'God's Order and Man's 
Disorder", was lightened in a rephrasing adopted at a Study Commission meeting at 
Cambridge in mid-August 

a The creation of the Commission was evidence of the co-operation of the World 
Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council, formalized by a decision 
in 1947 to add the phrase 'in association with' each other in every listing of their formal 
titles and sealed by the indispensable aid rendered by the Missionary Council in arranging 
for the participation of representatives of the churches in missionary lands at the 
Amsterdam Assembly of the World Council of Churches. 


5. The Participation of the Orthodox Churches 

The relations of the Orthodox Churches to the Ecumenical 
Movement have been ambiguous. The single jarring note in a 
printed survey of the Oxford and Edinburgh Conferences of 
1937 was struck by an Orthodox delegate who complained that 
his ecclesiastical tradition was discriminated against, its dogmatic 
positions ignored, its sacramental practice affronted. 1 After some 
controversy, especially in Greece, in the spring of 1949 over the 
legitimacy of Orthodox Churches belonging to the World 
Council,. 2 similar disquietude was manifest at the Faith and Order 
meeting in Lund, Sweden, in mid- August 1952, where Archbishop 
Athenagoras, spokesman in the West for the Patriarch of 
Constantinople, explained that the question of participation on 
the part of the Orthodox Churches, its mode together with a 
common code of procedure for official delegates, could only be 
definitively and properly settled by a Pan-Orthodox Council, 
difficult to assemble under present international conditions. 

It cannot be said, however, that the World Council of Churches 
has been negligent in its efforts to achieve a fuller participation 
of all of the Orthodox Churches. 3 The first post-war meeting 
of the Provisional Committee had dispatched a committee to 

1 Professor S. Zankov of the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the University of Sofia 
remarked that of the nineteen Reports presented at public and plenary sessions at Oxford, 
only one was introduced by an Orthodox delegate, that no representative of Orthodoxy 
was invited to give one of the solemn allocutions of the closing session, that the conception 
of the Church prevailing was that of liberal Protestantism assembling a League of Churches 
like the League of Nations, that the united Communion service at Oxford was offensive 
to the Orthodox delegates since it was the sole official service and arranged without 
consulting them, that no one noticed their absence, demanded by their religious con- 
victions, from the Communion service. Cater du Christianisme Social, Sept.-Dec. 1937, 
pp. 288-92. 

8 EPS, May 6, May 13, May 27, July 18 and October 21, 1949. 

8 Addressing the Study Department Commission, meeting at Bossey, June 23, 1947, 
Dr. 't Hooft indicated that 'The Assembly must be of such a nature that the Orthodox 
must feel not only that the door is open but that we are working in a framework where 
we have already taken into consideration that they ought to be in, that their place is in 
the World Council of Churches' (Archives'). At a meeting of the World Council's Re- 
construction Department at St. Cergue, March 12, 1948, Dr. 't Hooft outlined the steps 
that had been taken to ensure the presence of the Orthodox Churches at Amsterdam, 
adding: 'World Council of Churches leaders realize that the full participation of the 
Eastern Orthodox Churches in the World Council is essential if the Council is to be truly 
ecumenical and world-wide in scope.' EPS, March 12, 1948. 


visit the Orthodox Churches of the Near East and had approved 
ail approach to the Church of Russia. The correspondence with 
Moscow that ensued, if indefinite, was sufficiently friendly to 
justify Dr. Visser 't Hooft's expectations as expressed at the 
World Conference of Christian Youth at Oslo in late July 1947: 
'The Moscow Patriarchate considered that it was not ready this 
year to send a youth delegation from the USSR, We hope, 
however, that our fellow Christians from that great country 
will participate fuUy in future ecumenical meetings.' 1 

The World Council's General Secretary might have been less 
sanguine had he remembered the resentment of the Patriarchate 
of Moscow at the World Council's association with Russian 
Church imigris and Synods-in-exile which refused it allegiance, 
He might also have been mindful of the campaign of the Russian 
Church to achieve hegemony over all ecclesiastical bodies within 
the Soviet orbit. 2 As late, however, as the special pre-Assembly 
publicity releases, the Ecumenical Press Service was writing: 

No word has yet been received as to whether the Church in Russia 
wiH be represented at Amsterdam. It is possible that after the 
Conference of Orthodox Churches, beginning July % which has 
been called by die Moscow Patriarchate, an official word may be 
received concerning the participation of the Russian Church in this 
Assembly of the World Council. 8 

1 EPS, July 1947, p. 19(5, 

a Apart from the evidence of violence in the Anschluss of the Untate Churches in the 
Ukraine and Transylvania, the declaration of the Patriarch Alexci during a visit to 
Rumania may be noted. Referring to the coming Pan-Orthodox Conference at Moscow, 
he declared: 'An Orthodox front is a necessity which must be realized. We should be 
conscious of the great truth that the Orthodox Church is powerful. Far this reason, these 
Eastern Churches will form, without doubt, a front to be overcome by none.' Ibld n June, 
pp. 18-35, 47, Later, in a letter answering an objection that only the Ecumenical Patriarch 
of Constantinople can canonically convoke a Council of Bishops, Patriarch Alexei 
explained; 'Our invitation to our colleagues, the Heads of the Autocephalous Churches, 
is both natural and lawful, especially under present conditions when not one of the 
centres of die Eastern Church would be a suitable venue for the holding of such a confer- 
ence, if only because they do not offer a guarantee of freedom from political pressure for 
the study of ecclesiastical matters. The only place providing freedom from all foreign 
interference is the seat of our Patriarchal Throne, since it is situated in a country where 
the freedom of the Church is assured by law.' Md, t October 10, 1947. 

8 ttid,, June 18-35, 1948. 


The Conference referred to was 'The Meeting of Heads and 
Representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in 
connection with the Quincentenary Celebrations of the Russian 
Orthodox Church's Attainment to Autocephalous Status', as the 
official Report termed the gathering. At the official opening of 
the celebration in the Sokolniki Cathedral, G. G. Karpov, 
Chairman of the Committee of the Ministerial Council of the 
USSR for the Affairs of the Russian Orthodox Church, welcomed 
the visitors and interpreted the presence in Moscow of the 
delegates from the other Orthodox Churches as indicating their 
support of the new social and political Soviet order and their 
consequent wish to oppose efforts from abroad by countries 
desirous of undermining its position. Pravda which the month 
before had disclosed the decision of the Central Committee of 
the Communist Party of the USSR for an intensification of 
atheist activity listed the names of the clerical dignitaries present 
who had supported the nomination of Patriarch Alexei of 
Moscow as the one designated to promote a closer union, among 
Orthodox Churches through the world. The same ecclesiastics 
the Patriarchs of Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Rumania, 
representatives of the Patriarch of Alexandria and of the Russian 
Church in Ethiopia, delegates of the Orthodox Churches in 
Poland and Czechoslovakia-] oined His Beatitude of Moscow in 
rejecting the invitation to attend the Amsterdam Assembly, 
terming the World Council 'imperialistic' and describing the 
Ecumenical Movement as mainly 'political and antidemocratic'. 1 
Theresolutionwas arebuff to Archbishop Germanos, one of the five 
Presidents of the "World Council, who was present at the Conference. 
The news reached Geneva by way of a Radio Moscow broad- 
cast on July 23. It was confirmed by an official letter at the time 
of the Amsterdam Assembly, declining the invitation in view of 

1 During the debate on the Ecumenical Movement at the Pan-Orthodox Conference, 
one speaker hurled the (fairly improbable) charge of Roman Catholic infiltration of the 
World Council. This account of the Russian Church's attitude to the Amsterdam 
Assembly is taken from EPS, July 30, 1948, A. De Waymarn's review of the Official 
Report of the Moscow Conference, in ER. n (Summer 1950), 4, p. 403, and from the 
Minutes of the Meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Amsterdam 
and Woudschoten, p. 25. 


the World Council's 'present tendencies' and forwarding the 
text of the resolution of the Moscow Conference, eloquent if 
tendentious explications of the judgment rendered a month 
earlier. The decisions taken and the Reports adopted by the 
First Assembly of the World Council failed to ameliorate the 
condemnation decreed by the leaders of the Russian Orthodox 
Church. The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate printed the address 
of Archbishop Hcrmogcncs of Kazan, Rector of the Academy of 
Theology in Moscow on October 15, 1948, at the opening of the 
winter semester, accusing the Ecumenical Movement of heresy 
and imperialist political aims. 1 
The hostility was unmistakable. 


The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches was 
at once a personal encounter of religious-minded individuals 
committed to a spiritual purpose, a demonstration of solidarity of 
more than 150 churches, the constituting of an organization, and 
an effort to reach conclusions on common problems by study and 
discussion. The two weeks of the Amsterdam Assembly included, 
therefore, services of worship, public meetings featuring formal 
addresses, examination of and decisions on the Constitution, 
programme and budget of the Council, and discussions in the 
four Sections which prepared the Reports to be 'received* at 
Plenary Sessions to be 'commended to the churches for their 
serious consideration and appropriate action*. 

Since debate in the Sectional Meetings was private, the 200 
Press representatives concentrated their attention, mainly on the 
pageantry of the Assembly, augmented by Holland's preparations 
for die Coronation of Queen Juliana, and on the more dramatic 
incidents at the public meetings. The spotlight was focused on 

1 'Akeady before Amsterdam we could regard Life and Work as the logical expression 
of radical Protestantism with its denial of the divine humanity of Christ, the seven 
sacraments, the Virgin Mary and the honouring of the saints; moreover, since the 
Amsterdam Assembly, the Ecumenical Movement has revealed itself as a political party 
and as confederate of those who would launch a third, bloody war, although that has 
been masked in Christian phraseology.' J5PS, October 7, 1949. 


Karl Barth solemnly reminding the delegates that their function 
was not to concoct a facile 'Christian Marshall Plan' nor pretend 
to be God's administrative technical experts rather than His 
obedient witnesses. The East- West tension undoubtedly received 
the main publicity when an American attacked Soviet Com- 
munism for its rejection of moral law and its denial of human 
rights, and a delegate from, an Iron Curtain country indicted the 
moral bankruptcy of the West. The world's divided state would 
become less sharp, declared John Foster Dulles, 'if those who 
believe in moral law and human dignity will make it apparent 
by their works that their political practices are in fact being made 
to serve their faith'. Speaking from the same platform, Professor 
Josef L. Hromadka of the John Huss Theological Faculty at 
Charles University in Prague, saw in Communism, 'although under 
an atheist form, much of the social impetus of the living Church'. 

The Sections had been asked to bring to the Plenary Session 
an incisive statement of 2,000-2,500 words addressed primarily 
to the churches and written in a language intelligible to the 
regular church member; the statements, it was further indicated, 
should contain three major elements: (a) a limited diagnosis of 
the situation, (/;) an exposition of the Christian position on the 
issues treated, and (c) recommendations to the churches and to 
Christians. 1 Inevitably the Reports were the work of energetic 
drafting committees; nor were they substantially modified during 
the discussions at the Plenary Sessions. 2 

The reactions to the social pronouncements of Amsterdam 

1 A reporter for the Assembly News, a bulletin issued daily at Amsterdam, remarked: 
'Somehow or other, facilities for closer debate must be found in future World Council 
meetings. Mere "points of view" and "convictions" have been too numerous. But the 
disciplines of the ecumenical encounter have started.' 

8 Harold Fey, correspondent of the non-denominational Protestant weekly, Christian 
Century, believed that the Assembly 'partially reversed itself on the most important issue 
to come before it'. He writes: 'After condemning equally the ideologies of capitalism 
and communism, it [Amsterdam] sought to placate American opinion by confining its 
criticism to capitalism of the laissez-faire variety.' He supplies what is obviously an editorial 
judgment: 'The principal reason for the action was the Assembly's belated recognition 
that 85 per cent of the World Council's budget is raised in America. The Report of 
Section IH had in e0ect endorsed "The Middle Way" as the only economic philosophy 
under which the Christian ends of justice and peace can be achieved in a technological 
society. News-starved correspondents seized on this action and cabled the entire text 


varied with the source of the comment. In Europe, where the 
mangled and macerated tissues of finance, production and trade 
necessitated the economic surgery of large-scale nationalization 
and where the fraternity born, of the Resistance movements 
(joined with the compromised reputation of the middle classes) 
had given Socialism a new moral authority, the severe strictures 
of Section III on capitalism occasioned small disquietude. From 
conservative religious circles in the United States, protest was 
voiced that the evils attributed to capitalism had been brought 
under social control, that in any case they were not inherent 
in the system but manifestations of human selfishness. 1 The 
righteous indignation expressed in some commercial circles 
challenged, in effect, the justification of any judgment on economic 
affairs coming from a religious group; ironically, the same circles 
decry on occasion the absence of leadership by religious forces. 2 

to America. The American reaction was said to be hostile, so World Council officials 
began to worry over its effect on contributions. President Charles P. Taft of the Federal 
Council of Churches who was absent when the vote was taken [in plenary session?] , 
returned and proposed to confine the condemnation of capitalism to "the wholly self- 
regulating, laissez-faire theory of capitalism". But the representatives of churches from 
other parts of the world stand considerably to the left of American church opinion on 
what it means to apply Christian principles to the economic order. So the Assembly 
modified the statement, but only by adding "laissez-faire".* Christian Century ixv 
(September 22, 1948), 38, p. 980. The Official Report of Amsterdam notes only: 'At a 
later session the changes proposed by the Drafting Committee were submitted to the 
Assembly. Attention was called especially to the new formulation concerning the 
Church's attitude to capitalism and Communism as follows: "The Christian churches 
should reject the ideologies of both Communism and laissez-faire capitalism." These 
changes were accepted without further discussion.' The First Assembly of the World Council 
of Churches, edited by W. A. Visser 't Hoofe (hereafter referred to as Amsterdam), p. 87. 
In a conversation with the author, Professor John C. Bennett who was Secretary of 
Section III at Amsterdam found the addition of the adjective of verbal significance only 
since it was laisiex-faire capitalism which the text of die Report had described and con- 
demned, he pointed out. Cf. also his article, "Capitalism and Communism at Amsterdam", 
Christian Century txv Pecember 15, 1948), 50, pp, isdaflf. 

1 H. Paul Douglass, 'Some American Reactions to Amsterdam', BR i (Spring 1949), 3, 
p. 289. 

8 Fortune, a monthly edited for the business community, had editorialized: 'The way 
out is the sound of a voice, not our voice, but a voice coming from something not 
ourselves, in the existence of which we cannot disbelieve. It is the earthly task of the 
pastors to hear this voice, to cause us to hear it and to tell us what it says. If they cannot 
hear it or if they fail to tell us we, as laymen, are utterly lost. Without it we are no more 
capable of saving the world than we were capable of creating it in the first place.' 
xxi (January 1940), p, 27, 


The Amsterdam, scrutiny of the world situation and its recom- 
mendation to improve it was judged of modest value by Kenneth 
G. Grubb, Chairman of the Commission of the Churches on 
International Affairs. Sir Kenneth, 1 who, as Chairman of Section 
IV, had presented the Report to the Assembly, observed at a 
meeting of the World Council's Central Committee a year later 
that the document 'did not contain anything striking'. 2 An 
Indian observer expressed his dissatisfaction with the indefiniteness 
of the Amsterdam attitudes and perhaps thereby his mis- 
understanding of the complex character of die "World Council of 
Churches and its official conception of its function when he 
complained that the churches had not taken a stand on the con- 
temporary power conflict in international affairs. 3 A reporter 
for the Assembly News seems to have anticipated such reproaches 
and, after explaining the inherent difficulty of arriving at an 
ecumenical consensus, endeavoured to place the significance of 
the public pronouncements of the Assembly in proper perspective: 

Tliis message cannot be called 'the mind of Christ' nor 'the mind of 
the Church' nor is it the pontifically inspired utterance of the new 
World Council. True, it is the World Council speaking at its first 
Assembly. But in the end it is the word of the delegates, honest, 
humble men and women for the most part not better endowed 
with insight and devout wisdom than their fellows committed 
at this crucial time to speak a Christian word to the world. The 
Amsterdam Assembly's finest message will be the delegates them- 
selves and through them renewed and rededicated Churches. 4 

The World Council, it is worth repeating, is only an instrument 
of its member churches. 

1 As he is now; he was knighted in 1953. 

a Minutes and Reports of the Second Meeting of the Central Committee (Chichester), p. 81. 

8 'The question the Younger Churches would like to raise is why the Churches should 
show such conflicting attitudes in the realm of power politics. The youth of the Younger 
Churches often feel that the international outlook of the Churches is feeble when compared 
to the solidarity of Islam or Communism. The approach of the Churches to international 
affairs appears ttke a form of pious nihilism full of sentimental aspirations that are not 
taken seriously.' Chandran Devanesan, 'Post-Amsterdam Thought from a Younger 
Church', ER I (Winter 1949), 2, p, 146. 

4 EPS, September 7, 1948. 



The declaration of Amsterdam deemed of largest significance 
by the leaders of the Ecumenical Movement was the determina- 
tion proclaimed in the message: "We intend to stay together.' 
The practical consequences of that determination occupied the 
Committees of the Assembly 1 which reviewed the provisional 
Constitution and made recommendations on structure, policy 
and administration; its fulfilment was the responsibility of the 
ninety-member Central Committee, elected to exercise authority 
between Assemblies in the name of the component churches. The 
activities of the World Council of Churches, the problems con- 
fronting the newly created organization of the Ecumenical Move- 
ment, can thus be reviewed by examining the principal subjects 
on the agenda of the annual meeting of the Central Committee. 

I. Amsterdam-Woudschoten, 1948 

The Central Committee met for the first time immediately 
after the solemn adjournment of the Assembly at Amsterdam 
(continuing at nearby Woudschoten) to elect its Executive 
Committee of twelve, to confirm permanent staff appointments, 
to approve the rules and composition of departments and 
committees, to resolve World Council relationships with other 
ecumenical organizations and to apportion the burdens of 
budget-raising. In the midst of a discussion of these organizational 
details an announcement was made foreshadowing a major 
preoccupation of the World Council in the years ahead: how to 
remain above the crisis of contemporary history without failing 
in its mission. It was reported that one of the delegates, missing 
at Amsterdam, Dr. Lajos Ordass, Bishop of the Lutheran Church 
of Hungary, had been arrested. In due course Bishop Ordass 
was sentenced for violating currency laws in distributing foreign 
relief funds, a conviction that implicated the Lutheran, World 

1 The Committees were concerned with practical problems of the World Council as 
an organization (Constitution and Rules and Regulations; Policy; Programme and 
Administration) and with the 'Concerns of the Churches' (including the Hfc and work of 
women in die Church, the significance of the laity, and the Christian approach to the 


Federation, an agency sharing office-space and collaborating with 
the World Council's Department of Inter-Church Aid. 1 In a 
subsequent spectacle trial in Sofia, a group of local Bulgarian 
Protestant pastors confessed to espionage on behalf of the British 
and American Governments. Among the alleged intermediaries 
were Dr. J. Hutchinson Cockburn, head of the "World Council's 
relief programme, and his assistant, the Reverend Robert Tobias. 
Public opinion, particularly in England, expressed growing alarm 
at the trend of developments affecting the freedom of the Churches 
in Eastern Europe. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of 

a deadly struggle between the Christian faith and the Christian 
Church on the one side and on the other a Communism which will 
not tolerate any form of the Christian Church unless it be subservient 
to itself and which, as we know from such evidence, even when it 
tolerates it, only too often takes care by insidious means to frustrate 
its activity, to sap its life and to cut off from it boys and girls as they 
grow up. 2 

The detcrniination to escape involvement in the ideological 
struggle dividing human loyalties in every nation, a struggle 
symbolized (and over-simplified) by the alternatives 'East versus 
West', would test the skills of the Council's leadership. 

2. Chichester, 1949 

In addition to reviewing the operations of the World Council's 
Secretariat, the Central Committee, meeting at Chichester in 
mid-July 1949, discussed in camera the deteriorating political 
situation and the possible action open to the Council. The analysis 
offered by the Secretary-General found, on the whole, no direct 
persecution of religion in East Europe but pointed to a policy 

^The Lutheran World Federation had received from the Hungarian Ministry of 
Finance official approval of the financial arrangement for which Bishop Ordass was con- 
demned. As events proved, die regime was intent on replacing the Bishop by more 
accommodating ecclesiastical administrators. Evidence of the prior hostility of the 
Government is clear from the admissions of a secret policeman detailed to follow Bishop 
Ordass on his last visit to the Geneva Headquarters of the World Council and spy on his 
activities, The policeman sought political asylum in the West. Cf. J. Hutchinson 
Cockburn, Religious Freedom in Eastern Europe, p. 87. 

a Presidential address to the Joint Synod of the Convocation of Canterbury. Cf. EPS, 
January 21, 1949. 


of regimentation of the churches. Such political control forbade 
the churches 'to render any public witness except when they are 
invited to join the official choir of glorification of the new 
regime'. Lest the effects of such a policy be underestimated, 
Dr. Visscr 't Hooft emphasized that such regimentation 'is more, 
not less dangerous for the purity of the Church'. 1 At the con- 
clusion of the meeting the Central Committee issued a strong 
statement condemning (but not identifying) totalitarianism. 2 

3. Toronto, ig$o 

The world and the organized Ecumenical Movement were 
confronted with a new crisis in the early summer of 1950, one 
that would test the durability of the juridical system of collective 
security while exposing the organization and the functioning 
of die World Council of Churches to unexpected strains. The 
United Nations' Security Council had been convoked in emer- 
gency session in the last days of June 1950 to consider alarming 
reports arriving from its observers watching the borders of a 
nation in the Far East created under its own auspices. The 
decisive action of armed intervention to repel the aggressor and 
re-establish peace, authorized by the Security Council, was 
endorsed by the World Council's Central Committee in a public 
statement of sizeable consequences: 

An act of aggression has been committed. We, therefore, commend 
die United Nations, an instrument of world order, for its prompt 

1 Cliicliestcr Minutes, p. 65 and ER it (Autumn 1949), i, p. 63. 

a The discussion of the Central Committee has been summarized and its action explained 
thus: "There was a common conviction that the World Council of Churches had no 
mandate to make a judgment on the merits of the particular economic systems (e.g. 
capitalism and communism looked at on the economic level) and that the churches 
could be exploited by quite opposite political interests. Nor was the feeling absent that 
the Churches were themselves often to blame for failure in the achieving of social justice 
in different parts of the world where the Christian Gospel had been preached, There was, 
moreover, a strong sense of the necessity of maintaining fellowship with all the Churches 
in both East and West and of consideration for the complex and difficult character of the 
personal problems involved for those who Hve on a razor's edge. , . . But the Central 
Committee at Chichester believed the issue to be an issue of conscience. It felt compelled 
to declare its deliberate condemnation of totalitarian doctrine and totalitarian methods 
as in fact a denial of absolute moral standards and a moulding of die minds of the young 
in a pattern utterly opposed to the message of the Gospel.' The Bishop of Chichester, 
'The Chichester Meeting', J2R n (Autumn 1940), i, p. 37. 


decision to meet this aggression and for authorizing a police measure 
which every member nation should support. At the same time, 
governments must press individually and through the United 
Nations for a just settlement and conciliation. 1 

The Central Committee had expressed its rnind before. At 
Chichester it had spoken out against further dismantling of 
Germany's industrial plant, called for the protection of the Holy 
Places in Palestine and underlined the obligation of widening 
the emigration possibilities for the refugees of the world. At 
Toronto it issued a document of historic importance for the 
Ecumenical Movement, 'The Church, the Churches and the 
World Council of Churches', an analysis of its own nature. On 
the basis of an inquiry by the Commission of the Churches on 
International Affairs (restricted to Islam and countries where 
Roman Catholicism is preponderant), entitled 'Religious Freedom 
and Dominant Faiths', it had condemned limitations of religious 
liberty. It had, moreover, concerned itself with apartheid in 
South Africa, repeated its opposition to exploitation, discrimina- 
tion and segregation, and authorized the sending of a multi-racial 
delegation to render fraternal assistance if the churches of that 
troubled area could be persuaded to extend an invitation. It had 
fixed on a theme for the next Assembly 'Jesus Christ as Lord is 
the only Hope of both the Church and the World' a topic 
involving the field of eschatology on which theological attitudes 
were divided. It was the resolution on Korea, however, adopted 
unanimously by the Central Committee (save for two abstentions 
on grounds of pacificism), that caught the world's attention. 

The World Council of Churches, despite all its endeavours, 
was judged to have taken sides in the cold war. 2 The letter of the 

1 The First Six Years, p. 119. 

8 General Secretary Dr, "W. A. Visser 't Hooft, in a subsequent conference, explained 
the import of the Toronto resolution under three points: (i) No statement of any World 
Council of Churches body is a statement on behalf of all member churches; thus, the 
resolution of the Central Committee can be accepted or rejected by member churches. 
(2) The Central Committee had followed the decisions of the Amsterdam Assembly 
concerning the task of the World Council of Churches with respect to the rule of inter- 
national law; it had implemented the decision that the only organ of international order 
which is available should uphold the rule of law over against aggression. (3) The World 


Commission of the Churches on International Affairs warning 
that the Stockholm Peace Appeal was politically motivated 
aggravated the accusations. The World Council Resolution on 
Korea was included as evidence in an exhibition staged at Vouching 
University, Pekin, to demonstrate the alleged use 'American 
imperialism' was making of Christian institutions. 1 Pravda 
publicized on August 5 'An Appeal to the Christians of the 
World', signed by the Patriarch of Moscow, the Catholicos of 
the Armenian Church, and the Catholicos of Georgia, claiming 
that the resolution of the World Congress of the Partisans of 
Peace calling for the banning of the atomic bomb 'puts every 
one of us under the obligation to lift up his own voice against 
the employment of weapons of death'. The Appeal of the 
Orthodox Prelates was addressed in part to 'the Protestant world 
in die shape of the World Council of Churches' which, it was 
asserted, 'would give substance to its condemnation of war- 
mongering by supporting the Stockholm Peace Manifesto'. 2 

Council had not identified itself with any bloc of nations against other nations. Gf, EPS, 
September 8, 1950. Unhappily, at the same time, the Patriarch of Moscow, the Metro- 
politans of Kiev, Krutiza and Leningrad had protested publicly to the UN Security 
Council 'against the American aggression in Korea. In the name of Christ, the Saviour 
of the world, it [the Russian Orthodox Church] calls imperatively for a cessation of 
violence and bombing, for the withdrawal of foreign troops and for the ending of this 
illegal war.' Ibid. 

1 Yenching, an institution of higher learning founded and directed by American 
Protestant missionary groups, was seized by the Ministry of Education of the People's 
Republic of China in February 1951. After visiting the exhibition, Dr, James Endicott, 
Chairman of the Canadian Peace Congress, wrote: 'The final painful humiliation for me, 
a missionary, was to see the Ecumenical Review of the World Council of Churches on 
display. There were big red circles around pages 62 and 63 showing the Western Christian 
support for MacArthur's mass slaughter of the Korean people and the denunciation of 
the Stockholm Appeal to ban the atom bomb. Chinese students at Yenching and every- 
where else are entitled to draw die most serious conclusions about the nature of the 
tie-up between Western Christianity and Western imperialism from the matter contained 
in this Ecumenical Review of the World Council of Churches. The only thing left for the 
World Council of Churches to discredit itself completely in the eyes of all Asia and to 
give final proof of the exposure of imperialism under the cloak of religion is for it to 
deny or keep silent about the present large-scale American germ warfare against the 
Chinese [sic] people.' China Monthly Review, June 1953, p. 547, 

a Quoted in EPS, September 1, 1950. Earlier, Archbishop Luka of Crimeain civilian 
life, Professor Voino-Yasenetsky, winner of a Stalin Prize in 1945 appealed in the 
Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate to Christians in 'Anglo-Saxon countries [to thwart] the 
bloody plans of their militarists'. Quoted in EPS, April 23, 1948. 


Despite the insistence of the East Asia Christian Conference, 
sponsored by the World Council and convened at Bangkok in 
December 1949, that 'it is not the challenge of any ideology but 
the knowledge of the love of God in Christ for men that is the 
basis of the Church's social and political concern', a Moscow 
periodical branded the meeting as 'a mobilization of reactionary 
forces to combat the nationalist movement towards the freedom 
of the peoples of Asia' and attacked the World Council as the 
'foe of democracy'. 1 

By way of explicating its attitude the World Council, after its 
Executive Committee meeting at Bievres, France, January 30- 
Fcbruary i, 1951, dispatched a letter to its member churches 
decrying the war psychosis of the hour, deploring the inter- 
national and social perils of rearmament, demanding that every 
chance for negotiations between the belligerents be seized, 
recommending universal economic co-operation and urging all 
to pray for peace. The letter reasserted the World Council's 
'independence of all secular power', its effort 'on a basis of open 
brotherly conversation between the Churches to give a genuine 
Christian answer to the crucial questions of the present situation', 
and specified that 'the task of the Church today is to raise its voice 
in the first place in defence of the men and women for whom 
Christ died and who, in their material or spiritual insecurity, are 
the real victims of die great conflicts of our time'. 2 

4. Rolle, 1951 

The storm over the Korea resolution had not blown out when 
the Central Committee convened at Rolle, Switzerland, on 

1 Tor a number of years measures have been in progress in the USA for forming from 
the Christian Churches a single religious centre for the fight against communism and 
democracy. As is known, the Vatican, the obedient tool m the hands of world reaction, 
the universal bulwark of obscurantism, keeps only the Catholic Church united. Now 
American imperialism is setting up a world centre for religion to embrace all the Churches. 
It was for the furthering of this conception that the so-called "World Council of Churches, 
which directs in particular the activities of the Protestant Churches, was started. 1 
Litcratumaya Gazeta of March 18, 1950. Quoted in EPS, March 31. 

2 The quotations are from the General Secretary's summary of the principal emphases 
(and, probably, intentions) of the Bievres document. Cf. Minutes and Reports of the 
Fourth Meeting of the Central Committee (Rolle), p. 58. 


August 4, 1951, for its Fourth Meeting. 1 Indeed the storm was 
only an episode in a continuing situation challenging human 
loyalties. While the Amsterdam Assembly was in session, cargo 
planes were supplying the blockaded city of Berlin. The division 
of the world deepened steadily and menacingly. The formal 
constitution of two governments in Germany, the progressive 
sovietization of East Europe, the organization of the North 
Atlantic Treaty defence, the stalemate in the United Nations, the 
installation of a People's Democracy in China, the possession of 
the atom bomb by both East and West, and, finally, the invasion 
of South Korea, all were phases and factors of that divided world. 
Since history is inescapable, the World Council of Churches was 
part of that world. It was earnestly endeavouring to discover its 
practical role in it, a task made complex by the very nature of the 
Council and the involvement of some of its constituency. 

The RoEe meeting had before it two assigned themes for 
consideration. The first subject of discussion resulted in a State- 
ment, 'The Calling of the Church to Mission and to Unity', 
suggesting implications for the future structure and relationship 
of the International Missionary Council and the World Council 
of Churches. The second theme, 'The World Council of Churches 
in Times of Tension', was discussed in closed meetings. The 
subject concerned the plight of religious groups in East Europe, 
the situation in China of the World Council's member churches 
'with their complete acceptance of the Government's leadership 
and control' and their decision 'to sever all connection with 

1 Bishop Albert Bereczky of the Reformed Church of the Panubian District of 
Hungary resigned from the Central Committee and the Commission of the Churches on 
International Affairs, claiming to see a pro-Western orientation of the World Council 
in its implied criticism of the Partisans of Peace and its failure to note the protests of 
Lutheran and Reformed Churches in Hungary against the Toronto Resolution as well 
as their condemnation of German (presumably West German) remilitarization and their 
demand for the recognition of the People's Democratic Republic of China. Rolle Minutes, 
p. 55. Professor Josef L. Hromadka, of die Evangelical Church of die Czech Brethren, 
wrote: 'In a tragically decisive moment of world history, the World Council of Churches 
identified itself (under most dubious circumstances) with one group of great powers, 
backed its military might and encouraged all UN members to participate in it. Some- 
thing terrible happened.' 'A Voice from the Other Side", Christianity and Crisis xi 
(March 19, 1951), 4, p. a8. Professor Hromadka is presently a member of the Central 


Christian missions from the West', 1 and the problems occasioned 
by the social revolutions, the insistent nationalism, and the 
revival of ancient, dormant religions in South-east Asia. 

To be unwillingly involved in the implications of the cold and 
not-so-cold war was undoubtedly annoying to World Council 
officials. The activities of the Secretariat, its departments and 
commissions, were adequately absorbing without the distracting 
agitation of secular ideological issues. Though the International 
Refugee Organization was expiring, the problems of the world's 
homeless remained a responsibility of the Department of Inter- 
Church Aid and Service to Refugees. In co-operation with other 
ecumenical organizations the Youth Department was planning 
a Youth Conference in South-east Asia. The project of a semi- 
official history of the Ecumenical Movement was advancing 
slowly. The Commission on the Life and Work of Women in 
the Churches had organized itself. The Ecumenical Institute at 
Celigny was conducting its courses, gathering groups from 
different professions to examine their vocational problems in die 
light of the Gospel. Indeed, plans had been approved to create a 
Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies at Bossey, affiliated with 
the Faculty of Theology of the University of Geneva. A wide 
range of theological thinking has been organized to survey 
systematically the full scope of the Assembly Theme of Christian 
Hope. 'To promote co-operation in. study' had been defined as 
one of the functions of the World Council. The Study Depart- 
ment was endeavouring to overcome die 'disquieting apathy and 
unconcern' 2 of die member churches towards die common 

1 Rolle Minutes t p. <5p. Dr. T. C. Chao resigned as a President of the World Council 
in a letter terming the Toronto Resolution 'much like the voice of "Wall Street' and 
protesting the impossibility of being a loyal citizen of the People's Republic of China 
and an official of the World Council of Churches. Ibid., p. 55. Dr. Chao was subsequently 
reported to have been arrested and removed from, the campus of Yenching University in 
Peking, where he had been Dean of the School of Religion, because his 'confession' 
failed to measure up to die rigid requirements of the 'ideological remoulding' movement 
sponsored by the Chinese Government New York Times, May 25, 1952, p. 2 (European 
edition). Miss Sarah Chakko of India was elected to succeed Dr. Chao as President 
Archbishop Athenagoras, Exarch in the West of the Patriarch of Constantinople, 
replaced his predecessor, Archbishop Germanos, deceased. 

* Rolle Minutes, p. 97. 


enterprise; it was circulating reports, organizing conferences, 
encouraging the formation of national study commissions. 
It had lent its good offices in the creation and servicing of the 
unofficial Ecumenical Commission on European Co-operation, 
subsequently known as the Committee on the Christian Responsi- 
bility for European Co-operation. 1 Within the capacities of a 
full-time staff of two divided, moreover, by the Atlantic 
Ocean the Commission of the Churches on International 
Affairs pursued its mission of expressing the ecumenical outlook 
on die international scene. The influence of the CCIA in sonic 
situations was illustrated later when the Director was dispatched 
during the US State Department's efforts to arrange a cease-fire 
in Korea, to interpret to President Syngman Rhce the widespread 
desire for peace in America and Europe. 

5. Lucknow, 1953 

The Central Committee, long desirous of making the ecumen- 
ical actuality visible in the Far East, sat in Lucknow, India, 
December 3i-January 8, 1953. Its principal business was 
preparation for the Second Assembly, scheduled to take place in 
the United States, thus honouring a commitment made at 
the Utrecht meeting in 1938, and now fixed at Evanston, 

To make available to those planning for the discussions at 
Evanston information on the conditions in Asia, as interpreted 
according to the convictions and concerns of Christians on that 
side of the world, a four-day Ecumenical Study Conference was 
arranged immediately before the meeting of the Central Com- 
mittee. 2 The fruit of the Study Conference appears in the letter 
addressed from Lucknow by the Central Committee to its 
member churches underlining the responsibility created for the 
churches by the situation in Asia. The poverty and social dis- 
organization there, it was indicated, call for action by churches 
in more developed countries on behalf of government-sponsored 

1 Cf. Paul Abrccht, 'The Churches and European Unity', ER iv (April 1952), 3, pp. 3p<5 
8 The papers and discussions were published under the title, Christ the Hope of Asia, 


Technical Assistance Programmes. The national revolutions in 
Asia impose upon the churches there an obligation to make their 
life 'a witness to social justice and political freedom', since the 
Christian understanding of man, it was pointed out, is directly 
relevant to the search for new foundations of society. Distressed 
at the 'widespread sense of frustration over the increasing bitter- 
ness which affects relations between powers', the Central Com- 
mittee in a letter to the President of the UN General Assembly 
urged that, since the immediate object for which the United 
Nations intervened had been fulfilled, the miification and 
independence of Korea should be pursued by 'negotiated settle- 
ments'. It was the method which the World Council's Executive 
Committee was to recommend a year later in a letter to the 
four Foreign Ministers meeting in Berlin in February 1954 
to discuss the unification of Germany and a peace treaty for 
Austria. 1 

The World Council was even more mindful of the scandal of 
the division of the churches, die specific concern of the Faith 
and Order Commission of the Council. At its Third World 
Conference at Lund, Sweden, August 15-28, 1952, the 225 
delegates from 114 churches agreed: 'We have now reached a 
crucial point in our ecumenical discussions.' They noted, more- 
over, that their future tasks involved more than the traditional 
presentation and comparison of their separate religious con- 
victions, that there is 'need for co-operative, creative study of 
issues which affect varying interpretations of die unity and 
disunity of Christians'. 8 One of these issues includes the influence 
of non-theological factors which hinder or assist the unity of the 
Church. A letter of the British Scripture scholar, Professor C. H. 
Dodd, to the Commission was the catalyst opening this new 
field of study. Professor Dodd. invited a frank investigation of 
the part which 'unavowed motivation', attitudes based on 
confessional loyalties, and denominational traditions with their 
peculiar social and political predilections, play in the expression 

1 The letters are in The First Six Years, pp. 133-6. 
a Ibid., p. 26. 


of specifically theological opinions on Church unity. 1 The Lund 
Conference was the last meeting before Faith and Order, in the 
interests of a more complete integration into the organizational 
structure of the World Council, surrendered its semi-autonomy 
as a Commission, becoming a Department in the Division of 
Studies paralleling the Department on Church and Society. 

Northwestern University in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, 
Illinois, is, like many American institutions of higher learning, 
the outgrowth of the determination of pioneers to provide future 
ministers for the community and to guarantee that the youth of 
the nation would have a religiously oriented education. Founded 
just over a hundred years ago in what was then frontier country 
by Methodist preachers, a religious group whose activity has 
always been strongly marked by missionary zeal, impatience of 
denominational differences and intense concentration on social 
reform, 2 its evangelical origins, its extensive Lake-shore campus, 
amply furnished with halls and meeting-rooms, its location in 
the centre of the American continent, all recommended it as the 
scene of the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches. 
For the last seventeen days of August 1954, delegates of 132 of 
the 163 member communions of the Council gathered there for 
prayer, common counsel and planning for the future of the 
organized instrument of the Ecumenical Movement. 

1 Professor Dodd wrote: 'At Amsterdam the delegates from behind the Icon. Curtain 
were insisting that the ecclesiastical questions that occupy us must not be treated in 
abstraction from what is going on in the political and social spheres. Quite dearly they 
thought that it did not matter very much whether the sacraments should be safeguarded 
by apostolic succession or whether the Church is an "event" created daily and hourly by 
the "Word of God; what mattered was that Christianity should fmd ways of embodying 
itself in the new Communist or "proletarian" society as it did in the feudal and bourgeois 
societies of the past. If it does so, then as a matter of fact, of course, fresh "confessional" 
divergences will arise. That is why, I think, it would be salutary to bring into the open 
those social and political matters which I am sure constantly weigh with us, though they 
may not be avowed,* 'Unavowed Motives in Ecumenical Discourse', J2R n (Autumn 
1949), I. p. 5<5- 

3 Northwestern's first Dean of Women was Frances Willard who founded the Women's 
Christian Temperance Union, an organization influential in obtaining the enactment of 
national prohibition legislation. Even today alcoholic drinks are not sold in Evanston. 


Divided into fifteen groups considering the theme of Christian 
Hope and subsequently into six sections studying subjects of 
ecumenical interest, 1 the delegates found it almost impossible to 
follow the Assembly as a whole. 2 They knew that the inter- 
national situation had deteriorated since their meeting at Amster- 
dam. The Report of the UN Disarmament Sub-Commission, 
published on July 29, acknowledging the continuing impasse, 
was a reminder that the menace of war, its terrors magnified by 
newly-developed thermo-nuclcar weapons, had not abated. 
Nevertheless, with the assurance of Christ's promises, the Message 
of the Evanston Assembly proclaimed: 'we can face the powers of 
evil and the threat of death with a good courage'. The Assembly 
was reluctantly compelled to acknowledge its inability to solve 
satisfactorily the question of the meaning of hope, in effect to 
relate proximate goals and ultimate ends. 3 

With the liberty allowed in ecumenical discourse, differences 
of opinion on other subjects were voiced. Mr. Charles Taft 
boldly extolled American society and its free-enterprise system 
as 'at its best, a product of Christian principles', while for Professor 
Josef Hromadka the danger is that the Church will identify itself 
with human absolutes or find absolute evil in any secular institu- 
tion, a danger seemingly successfully escaped in Czechoslovakia 
by his own church. In the judgment of Dr. Benjamin Mays, 
racial segregation stood condemned by the gospel; Dr. Ben 
Marais of South Africa saw in the scriptural episode of the 
Tower of Babel the beginning of apartheid and concluded: 'It is 
clear that God willed the existence of separate nations and that 

1 Faith and Order; 'Our Oneness in Christ and our Disunity as Churches'; Evangelism: 
'The Mission of the Church to those outside her Life'; Social Questions: 'The Responsible 
Society in a World Perspective'; Inter-group Relations: 'The Church amid Racial and 
Ethnic Tensions'; The Laity: 'The Christian in his Vocation'; International Affairs: 
'Christians irx the Struggle for World Community'. 

* The proceedings appeared as The Evanston Report, edited by W. A. Visser 't Hooft 
(hereafter referred to as Evanston). Popular interpretations include: James Hastings 
Nichols, Evanston: an Interpretation; Cecil Northcott, Evanston World Assembly, and 
H. G. G. Herklots, Looking at Evanston. 

8 Evanston, p. 70. The Report of the Advisory Committee on the Main Theme was 
forwarded to the member churches 'for their study, prayer and encouragement'. The 
Orthodox participants disassociated themselves from the Statement. 


He wills to perpetuate the divisions into races and nations.' To 
an Evangelical pastor from the Soviet Zone of Germany, Dr. 
Guenter Jacob, the question of being a believing Christian or a 
Communist was 'an cither-or proposition'; Dr. Jdnos Peter of 
Hungary held that one can be both. Such opinions arc, to be 
sure, merely views held within the World Council. The positions 
the World Council 'commended to the Churches for study and 
appropriate action', as well as the authority of its judgments, will 
be considered later in this study. 

If there was not the atmosphere of new beginnings at Evanston 
as at Amsterdam, there were elements that made the meeting 
memorable. There was the articulatcness of the delegates from 
Africa and Asia, a constant reminder (despite the absence of the 
churches of China) of die awakening of the hundreds of millions 
of people of those continents and of their demand for recognition. 
The President of the United States and the Secretary-General of 
the United Nations journeyed to Evanston to address Plenary 
Meetings of the Second Assembly, evidence that the Council 
and the idea it represented commanded the attention of secular 
authorities. There was the interest of the organs of public 
information represented by the presence of 646 correspondents, 
radio and television newscasters, proof that millions of people in 
many lands were waiting to learn what was being said and done 
at Evanston. The pronouncement of the Assembly on social 
questions was felt by sonic commentators to represent a 'swing to 
the right' in the World Council's attitude. A more equitable 
judgment would suggest that the Report on the Responsible 
Society was the result of fuller information of the state of the 
world, a wider experience in ecumenical dialogue and more 
leisurely preparation than had been true of the comparable 
Amsterdam document. 

Because it was the Second Assembly there was a certain 
factualness about die Evanston meeting. The Council was no 
longer an experiment: indeed it had been functioning long enough 
to warrant a survey by a committee which had suggested certain 
changes in structure and administration in the interests of greater 


efficiency. The representatives of the member churches and the 
officials of the Council had come to know one another well by 
reason of regular encounters at meetings of the Central Committee 
and in the course of mutual efforts in aid of refugees. A certain 
camaraderie had grown up in the Ecumenical Community. The 
questions to be discussed were inevitable facets of familiar 
problems offering small prospect of imminent solution. The world 
had not changed much, certainly not for the better, in the six 
years since Amsterdam, and the differences of theological position 
in the World Council constituency, based as they are on strongly 
held convictions, were not easily to be bridged or dissolved. 1 

The delegates who returned home from Evanston had the 
mandate to make effective the Assembly's recommendations in 
the life of their separate communions. They had consulted 
together about the Council which at Amsterdam they had 
'covenanted together' to form. Despite the concurrent growth of 
confessional solidarity the international associations of the 
Presbyterians, Anglicans, Disciples of Christ, Lutherans and 
Methodists had convened in America before the Evanston 
Assembly the Council after six years was undoubtedly a 
stronger, more articulate organization. The Churches which had 
resolved to stay together were resolved to go forward together 
to a future hidden from human sight. 

1 Chosen to fill the largely honorific posts on the Council's presidium on a basis of 
confessional and geographical representation were: Professor John Bailhe of the Church 
of Scotland; Bishop Sante Uberto Barberi, missionary leader for the Argentine, Uruguay 
and Bolivia of the Central Conference of the US Methodist Church; Bishop Otto 
Dibelius of the Evangelical Union Church of Berlin-Brandenburg; the Most Reverend 
Mar Thoma Juhanon, Metropolitan of the Syrian Reformed Church of St. Thomas of 
Malabar, South India; Archbishop Michael, spiritual Chief of the Greek Orthodox of 
North and South America acknowledging jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch; 
and the Right Reverend Henry Knox Sherrill, Presiding Bishop of the Protestant 
Episcopal Church of die United States. Bishop G. K. A. Bell of Chichcster, England, 
was elected an Honorary President. 



WHAT had been brought into being by the resolution voted 
nemine contradicente in Amsterdam's Concertgebouw on August 
23, 1948? *A fellowship of churches which accept our Lord 
Jesus Christ as God and Saviour', declared the Constitution of 
the now officially constituted World Council of Churches. But 
what precisely is 'a fellowship of churches'? 

The plan for die projected World Council which was laid 
before die Conferences at Oxford and Edinburgh in 1937 seems 
to have envisaged no more dian a new organization which, in 
the interests of greater efficiency, would couple the movements 
of Life and Work and Faith and Order and secure for the interests 
they represented die official recognition and support of the 
churches. The latter feature contained implications that were 
possibly unsuspected at the time. For the churches to enter 
into official association widi one another, to declare (as they 
did at Amsterdam.) diat dieir mutual relations expressed 
an extant unity, a unity diey pledged to perpetuate, raised 
questions concerning die character of that unity and demanded 
serious examination of the nature of the World Council of 

A federation of churches co-operating for determined goals 
presents no particular problem of analysis; such organizations 
exist as Christian Councils or Federations of Churches in nearly 
every country. The commitment, however, whereby some 
150 churches 'covenanted togedier to constitute this World 
Council of Churches', seemingly produced something more than 
the familiar church federation. How describe die result? How 


define the nature of a 'fellowship' of churches holding divergent 
views on the basis of ecclesiastical unity but seeking to express a 
unity they had experienced? The Archbishop of Uppsala re- 
marked later: 'If the Amsterdam delegates had been consistent, 
they should have separated with an anathema. But, thank God, 
they expressed their firm determination to stay together in spite 
of differences which might seem almost fundamental.' 1 They 
not only resolved 'to stay together' in an organized fellowship 
but determined to 'move forward towards the manifestation of 
the One, Holy Church' when the justification for the World 
Council of Churches 'an emergency solution' presumably 
will have happily ceased. 2 To be sure, there was at Amsterdam 
little of the easy optimism which, Archbishop Yngve Brilioth 
told the delegates, characterized the pre-Lausanne hopes of the 
Faith and Order movement: 'the ideal of a united Church is a 
tangible possibility to whose realization in the not too distant 
future we may look forward'. On the other hand, however 
distant that future now appeared, however realistic was the 
recognition of the difficulties involved, the formation of the 
World Council of Churches represented an official commitment 
of its member churches 'to express that unity in Christ already 
given to us and to prepare the way for a much fuller and much 
deeper expression of that unity'. 3 

A new fact had come into being in the field of ecumenics but 
no categories exist in ecumenical discourse to describe it. 

It was not long after the Amsterdam Assembly that the need 
for attempting such a description forced itself upon the World 
Council. The demand for clarification of the implications of 
membership was first voiced in the Orthodox Church of Greece, 
disturbed, in part, by Karl Earth's comment that 'not one of the 
Churches represented at the Assembly had confronted the others 
with the claim, of being the infallible Church, the sole source of 

1 ER m (April 1951), 3, p. 250. 

* From an address, 'The Task of the World Council of Churches', a Report presented 
to the Assembly on behalf of the Provisional Committee by the General Secretary. 

Amsterdam, p. 29. 


salvation'. 1 The uncertainty of the relations of the member 
churches to one another in a fellowship of unity was not con- 
fined to the Orthodox. The question required more definite 
answers on the nature of the organization expressing that 
unity; plans were set on foot to provide at least a provisional 

It was no easy task. There was, to hegin with, no historical 
precedent to evoke nor even an agreed vocabulary of terms. 2 
Some ecumenical experts held that success was impossible, this 
being an effort to define the ineffable. Thus Professor L. A. Zander 
of the Russian Orthodox Institute of Paris argued that the Ecumen- 
ical Movement including its organized expression, the World 
Council of Churches functions on a level beyond rational 
description. 8 And the Archbishop of Uppsala saw the World 
Council as 'a form of Christian community which cannot be 
defined because its essence is dynamic, because it is continually 
transcending the limits of its previous and present existence'. 4 
The problem of defining the relations of the churches to one 
another within the organization of the World Council (thus 

1 Rgfome, October 23, 19*18 as quoted in Is'PS, October 39, 1948, 

9 A former Associate General Secretary of the World Council, Bishop Stephen C, 
Ncill, observes in a recent book; 'The word Church appears to be commonly used in 
modern speech in no less than six different senses.' The Christian Satiety* p. ayo*. Dis- 
cussing the resulting problems of orthography, the editors of Chri$temhiH t the forerunner 
of the World Council's Iktwteniail Review, acknowledged their realiajatitni of 'perpetual 
inconsistency' in the use of upper or lower case initial for the term: 'To ca pitiliste or 
not to capitalize arc the only option which English usage allows. But the meanings 
of "church" arc multiple. A correspondent points out that at least a dozen meanings 
have been recognized in various Christendom articles and challenges us to be explicit 
in the future as to what meaning is intended in any context. He suggests we attach 
a subscript to every use of the word church], church a and so on so that everyone will 
know exactly what is being talked about.' Christendom vni (Autumn, 1943), 4, p. xiii. 
The present writer has encountered the same problem, He has followed the orth ography 
of die World Council documents, 

8 'It especially belongs to that sphere of religious experience in which dogmas are 
seen to be the rationalized schemata of super-rational truth, Accordingly, for the dog- 
matic consciousness ccumcnxcism is a paradox (easily converted by its opponents into 
sheer absurdity), an antinomy (regarded by many as simply a contradiction), an object 
of faith and inspiration explainable but not defined by reason.' 'The Problems of 
Ecumenicism', WCC Study Department Document 48E/708A (mimeographed). 
Professor Zander wrote that "from a dogmatic point of view ecuuicnicUm itself may be 
defined as the intercommunion of Christians who regard one another as heretics'. 

* JSR tn (April 1951), 3, p. 351. 


clarifying its nature) was complicated by the fact that the member 
churches themselves have refrained from giving detailed and 
precise definitions of the nature of the Church. 1 

How then achieve a definition which would take into account 
the various ccclesiologies of its member churches, ecclesiologies 
ranging from the ironical conception of the Church not as 'an 
organic historical entity but a social contract and Rousseau and 
Hobbes are its prophets' 2 to the affirmation of the Church as a 
thoroughly concrete, historical entity uniquely identified with a 
single ecclesiastical communion? 3 How, in fact, talk about the 
World Council of Churches without using the language, the 
categories and expressions of one or other particular conception 
of the Church not necessarily acceptable to all the member 
churches? 4 How, finally, summarize a situation that was basically 
built on a paradox: an agreement on the sovereign importance 
of church unity by member churches holding conflicting views 
on the mode of ultimate unity, 5 an agreement that the divisions 
between existing churches (with which the World Council deals 

1 'It is a conspicuous lack in American Christianity that the Church remains so vague a 
concept. There is no clear idea among us as to what the nature of the Church is, or as 
to the criteria by which its functions may be determined.' P. Ernest Johnson in The Social 
Gospel Re-exatitined, p. 121. Dr. Johnson was Director of the Department of Social 
Research of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. 

2 C. C. Morrison in Christendom n (Spring, 1947), 2, p. 283, as quoted by J. Robert 
Nelson, The Realm of Redemption, p. 191. 

8 "The Orthodox Church claims to be the Church. . . . She is aware of the identity of 
her teaching with the Apostolic message and the tradition of the ancient Church. . . . She 
finds herself in an unbroken succession or tradition of faith. Her ministry also stands in 
right and unbroken succession of orders. She is aware of having been the same since the 
beginning. And for that reason she recognizes herself, in this distorted Christendom 
of ours, as being the only guardian of the primitive Faith and Order in other words, 
as being the Church.' Father George Florovsky, 'The Doctrine of the Church and the 
Ecumenical Problem', ER n (Winter 1950), 2, p. 153. Professor Florovsky was a member 
of the Committee which composed the Statement, 'The Church, die Churches and the 
World Council of Churches' (cf. infra). 

* Thus the Survey prepared for the Faith and Order Section of the Evanston Assembly 
speaks of 'the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church . . . [as] actually fragmented 
into exclusive and mutually suspicious bodies called confessions, denominations or sects', 
a conception certainly unacceptable to the Orthodox, to advocates of the Branch Theory 
of the Church and even to believers in die adequacy of national churches. The Christian 
Hope and the Task of the Churches (hereafter referred to as CHTC), p. 3. 

8 A substantial part of the World Council's membership, holding that Christian unity 
already exists in a common loyalty to a common Lord, seek no organic unity. 


provisionally) contradict the very nature of the Church, 
accompanied by divergent opinions on the nature of the 

There were sonic who thought that any attempt by die World 
Council at self-analysis was premature, any interpretation of its 
own theological implications was impossible. It was the need of 
explaining the possible coexistence of mutually opposed theologies 
of the Church in a common fellowship that made the effort 
imperative. A draft paper was prepared by the General Secretary 
who had devoted considerable thought to the question over the 
years; the draft was revised and reduced in length by a committee 
of theologians, whose version furnished the basis of a two-day 
debate by the Council's Central Committee, meeting at Toronto, 
Canada, July 9-15, 1950. The result was a seven-page statement, 
'The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches', 
commended 'for study and comment in the churches'. 1 The 
phrase implies that the Statement is not an 'official document* 
of the World Council. It was used, however, as the foundation 
for the discussions on 'Our Oneness in Christ and our Disunity 
as Churches' in the Survey prepared for the Faith and Order 
Section of the Evanston Assembly; it represents the World 
Council's current understanding of its own nature, and its current 
formulation of the ecclcsiological implications of its own 
existence, Though it is a somewhat technical document, com- 
posed by theologians for consideration by ecclesiastical leaders, 
the Statement must be employed in any exposition of the nature 
and authority of die World Council of Churches. 

I. Negative Disclaimers 

By way of clarification die Statement begins by a series of 
negations, making five assertions of what die Council is not. The 
assertions of the Statement wiH be set out in italics, 

(i) The World Council of Churches is not and must never become 
a super-Church. To dispel a persistent misunderstanding die 

1 Minutes and Reports of the Third Meeting of the Central Committee (Toronto), pp. 84-905 
and ER. m (October 1950), i, pp. 47-53. Also found, in The Pint Six Years, 1 
pp, 113-19- 


Statement repeats anew tliat every member church retains the 
constitutional right to ratify or reject utterances or actions of the 
Council, since the Council is incapable in principle of legislating 
or acting for its member churches. This clear assertion emphasizes 
the instrumental character of the Council, its aspect of being an 
agent of the collaborating churches. The point is underscored 
in the flat declaration that the Council 'is not the World Church. 
It is not the Una Sancta of which the creeds speak.' 1 

To dispel any lingering disquietude the Evanston Assembly, 
through the Report of its Faith and Order Section, repeated: 
'The World Council of Churches is not a Super-Church.' 

(2) The purpose of the World Council of Churches is not to negotiate 
unions betiveen Churches, which can only be done by the Churches 
themselves acting on their own initiative, but to bring the Churches 
into living contact with each other and to promote the study and dis- 
cussion of the issues of Church unity. Though 'the Council exists 
to break the deadlock between the Churches', no member church 
need fear that it will be pressed to take a decision against its own 
conviction or desire, promises the Statement. 

A publication of a former Associate General Secretary of the 
World Council, Bishop Stephen C. Neill, reports thirteen 
achievements of complete organic union of denominations in. 
the last fifteen years, two agreements for unconditional inter- 
communion and two for limited intercommunion, sixteen 
progressing negotiations with a view to organic union, seven 

1 To avoid just such misunderstanding a phrase in Amsterdam's Section III draft 
Report was changed to the plural (i.e. 'The Christian churches . . ,') during a discussion 
at a plenary meeting. Amsterdam, p. 87. A certain ambiguity arises, however, from a 
view prominent in World Council circles and seemingly held by the General Secretary 
that God uses the World Council as the Una Sancta on occasions or that the Una Sancta 
becomes transitorily incarnate in certain ecumenical encounters. Thus: 'If then the 
World Council cannot pretend to represent the Una Sancta, it can and must affirm, that 
in it and by it when it pleases God the Una Sancta is made manifest.' W. A. Visser 
't Hooft, 'Le Conseil Oecume'nique des Eglises' in Hommage et Reconnaissance, Recueil 
de travaux public's i 1'occasion du soixatitieme anniversaire de Karl Barth (Neuchatel: 
Delachaux & Niestle 1 , 1946), p. 138. Cf. also The Universal Church in God's Design 
(New York: Harper & Bros,, 1948), p. 185. In his Report to the Evanston Assembly the 
General Secretary reverted to the same theme, terming the World Council 'an instrument 
at the service of the churches to assist them in then: common task to manifest the true 
nature of the Church'. 


with the goal of some other kind of closer fellowship, and six 
which arc temporarily suspended or are abandoned. 1 - In none of 
these negotiations has the World Council been broker or lent 
its good offices. As a place of ecumenical encounter, however, it 
hopes to serve as an occasion at least of conversations looking 
towards the coalescence of the churches. Furthermore, by its 
mere existence as a fellowship of churches which have 'covenanted 
together to constitute this World Council of Churches', it repre- 
sents the 'holy dissatisfaction' of the member churches with their 
existing disunity and a commitment to search for greater unity. 
'Entrance into the World Council/ the General Secretary has 
written, 'presupposes willingness to manifest together with other 
churches that measure of unity which is now granted to the 
churches in the Council and to strive with them for the manifesta- 
tion of the full unity of the Church of Christ.' 8 At the Evans ton 
Assembly the General Secretary returned to the same point, 
declaring that the World Council should seek to 'create the 
conditions in which the churches come to know each other, 
enter into searching conversations with each other and learn from 
each other, so that the walls of partition become transparent and 
finally disappear altogether'. Not that the Council itself can or 
should promote unions between churches, Dr. Visscr *t Hooft 
noted: 'But the Council can and. must work to create a situation 
in which there is so much in common between the churches that 
there is no adequate reason for them to remain separate from 
each other/ 

This assumption encountered opposition on the part of the 
Orthodox at Evanston. Their delegation entered a formal 
demurrer to die World Council's approach to the problem of 
church unity. 

As chief of the delegation, Archbishop Michael of the Greek 
Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, one of the 
new Presidents of the Council, read a separate statement rejecting 
the Faith and Order Report and repeating that the Orthodox 

* Towards Church Union, Ip37-ip5. 

* The Universal Church in God's Design, p. 191, 


Church alone offers the key to unity. 1 A retiring President of 
the Council, Pasteur Marc Boegner, found the Orthodox state- 
ment 'an unheard-of shock', 2 but two newly elected Presidents, 
Bishop Henry Knox SherrUl and Professor John Baillie, indicated 
that the declaration 'came as no surprise'. Professor John Baillie 
explained: 'We have long understood that we can only keep the 
Orthodox within the World Council if we allow them to express 
their dissent on this point. They want to stay in and we want to 
keep them in.' 

(3) The World Council cannot and should not lie based on any one 
particular conception of the Church. It does not prejudge the ecclesio- 
logical problem. It is significant that nowhere in the Statement, 
'The Church, the Churches and the World Council of Churches', 
is the term 'the Church' defined. 3 Is it an abstraction or an entity, 
an idea (in the platonic sense) or a fact in the historical order with 
a continuity in time; Is it a common verbal cover for the sum 
total of Christians, a concrete society of restricted membership 
or a grouping awaiting future events (whether beyond human 
history or in time) before defining itself adequately? Such 
questions are for the individual member churches to settle. It is 
of the nature of the World Council that such divergences exist 
within its constituency. Indeed, the flip comment of an American 
news weekly that the Amsterdam Assembly could not define what 
it meant by 'the Church' was an absurd show of professional 

1 "Hie whole approach [of the Faith and Order Report] to the problem of reunion is 
entirely unacceptable from the standpoint of the Orthodox Church. . , . From the 
Orthodox viewpoint, reunion of Christendom, with which the World Council of 
Churches is concerned, can be achieved solely on the basis of the total, dogmatic Faith of 
the early, undivided Church, without either subtraction or alteration. . . . The Episcopal 
Succession from the Aposdes constitutes an historical reality in the life and structure of the 
Church and one of the presuppositions of her unity through the ages. The unity of the 
Church is preserved through the unity of the Episcopate. ... In conclusion, we are bound 
to declare our profound conviction that the Holy Orthodox Church alone has preserved 
in full and intact "the faith once delivered unto the saints",' Evanston, pp. 93-5- 

8 Le Figaro, September 9, 1943, p. i. 

3 For the first time apparently in "World Council literature, the preparatory volume 
for the Faith and Order Section of the Evanston Assembly, 'Our Oneness in Christ and 
Our Disunity as Churches', explains in a footnote: 'Throughout this survey the word 
"Church" is used, not only in reference to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, 
but also to those numerous bodies which are associated to form the World Council of 
Churches,' No distinction of meaning was subsequently attempted in any given context. 


incompetence. As even a casual journalist might have surmised, 
if there was common agreement on the meaning of the word 
there would be no need for the plural 'Churches' in the title. 
Nor, in fact, would there be reason for the continued existence 
of the Council itself. 

'There is room and space in the World Council,' the Toronto 
Statement explained, 'for the ecclesiology of every Church which 
is ready to participate in the ecumenical conversation and which 
takes its stand on the Basis of the Council, which is "a fellowship 
of churches which accept our Lord Jesus Christ as God and 
Saviour"/ The Statement acknowledges that at times the 
utterances of the Council may seem to be couched in the language 
of some particular theological tradition but insists that there is 
not and cannot be an official ecclesiology. The assurance was 
probably intended to allay any uneasiness occasioned by the 
phrase 'the Church in the Churches' employed on occasion by 
the General Secretary, and to clarify any uncertainty arising from 
the description of the Council by the Chairman of the Provisional 
Committee as 'a method, thanks to which the Universal Church 
has at its disposal a means to manifest itself in a more permanent 
and effective manner than has been the case in the last four, yes, 
the last eight centuries'. 1 Such views, in the light of the Toronto 
Statement, are to be considered personal and no more representa- 
tive nor authoritative than any other ecclesiology within the 
World Council membership. 2 

(4) Membership in the World Council of Churches does not imply 
that a Church treats its own conception of the Church as merely 

1 Archbishop William Temple, addressing the delegates of the Faith and Order 
Conference at Edinburgh in 1937 on the projected World Council, Leonard Hodgson 
(ed.), The Second World Conference on Faith and Order, p. 20, 

a However, Professor Henry P. Van Dusen, President of Union Theological Seminary 
and Chairman of die World Council's Study Department Commission, commenting on 
the Toronto Statement, asserted that 'the document reflects the traditional Continental 
Reformed viewpoint, modified but not radically recast by the two other principal 
ecclesiastical outlooks in the Ecumenical Movement ... it is all too patently oriented 
towards those of somewhat extreme "Catholic" conviction who look upon the World 
Council with misgiving if not positive distrust'. ER m (AprU 1951), 3, p. 253, Dr. Van 
Dusen felt that the statement did not take the ecclesiology of the Free Churches sufficiently 
into account. 


relative. Under this point, the liberty of each ecclesiastical com- 
munion within the World Council to maintain its own views 
on the nature of the Church was repeated including the freedom 
to deny the adequacy of other member churches, a controversial 
and obviously sensitive topic developed further in the Statement. 1 
(5) Membership in the World Council does not imply the acceptance 
of a specific doctrine concerning the nature of Church unity. Just as 
there is no official World Council position on the nature of the 
Church neither is there one on the nature of church unity, 
although in 'covenanting together' to form the Council the 
member churches have pledged themselves to strive to achieve a 
larger unity. Within its constituency are churches intransigent 
in their demand for an ultimate organic, dogmatic and sacra- 
mental unity, while others, as the Toronto Statement noted, 
'hold that visible unity is unessential or even undesirable'. All 
views on unity are legitimate, provided that the churches con- 
cerned are prepared for sincere collaboration, using the World 
Council as a provisional instrument for a consideration of 
'divisions between existing churches which ought not to be 
because they contradict die very nature of the Church'. 'The 
whole point of the ecumenical conversation/ the Statement 
declared, 'is precisely that all these conceptions enter into dynamic 
relations with each other.' 

2. Positive Convictions 

The Toronto Statement, 'The Church, the Churches and the 
World Council of Churches', continued by setting down eight 

1 Tliis point would seem to have been implicitly challenged by the Swiss Protestant 
Church Federation in its approval of the Toronto Statement. The Faith and Order 
Commission's Survey, published in preparation for the Evanston Assembly, reports that 
the Swiss reply pointed out 'that the word "church" as applied to member constituents 
of the Council does not refer to either meaning of the word ekklesia in the New Testament, 
but to organizational entities of a particular tradition or confession*. CHTC, p. 15. 
The comment seems to repeat the misapprehension of Karl Earth that none of the churches 
at Amsterdam claimed to be the Church. Apart from the Orthodox, who have hardly 
been reticent in asserting an historical identity with the ekklesia of the New Testament, 
the conference of the Anglican bishops, meeting at Lambeth in 1948, declared that 'the 
Anglican Communion is not a sect. It is a part of the Church Catholic.' Accounts of the 
Churches' understanding of themselves will be found in The Nature of the Church, edited 
by R. Newton Flew. 


'positive assumptions' which underlie the World Council of 
Churches and the ccclesiological implications of membership 
in it. 

(i) The member Churches of the Council believe that conversation, 
co-operation and common witness of the Churches must be based on the 
common recognition that Christ is the Divine Head of the Body, In 
language echoing the Basis of the World Council, the first 
assumption argues that a common acceptance of 'our Lord 
Jesus Christ as God and Saviour . . . compels all those who 
acknowledge Him to enter into real and close relationships 
with each other even though they differ in many important 
points'. 1 The point was developed in the course of considering 
requests to clarify or amplify the Basis as enunciated in the 
Constitution. The analysis of the problem by a committee of 
three theologians, appointed by the Central Committee, resulted 
in a decision to leave the language of the Basis untouched, a 
recommendation approved by the Evanston Assembly. The 
Basis, argued the Committee, performs three functions; 

(a) It indicates the nature of the fellowship which the churches 
in the Council seek to establish among themselves, 'a fellowship 
of a unique character. . . . The churches enter into relation with 

1 In an account of the nature of the World Council of Churches, it is apposite to point 
out that the Explanatory Memorandum, written by Archbishop William Temple, which 
was sent along with the proposed Constitution and Letter of Invitation to the Churches 
in 1938, indicated that the Basis is to be taken as an affirmation of faith not as a crecdal test 
and that the Council docs not concern itself with the fashion in which these affirmations 
are interpreted in the different Churches (cf. Document of the World Council, p. ifi). 
Fifteen years later the General Secretary expressed a preference that the Basisfirst 
formulated by the Young Men's Christian Association, meeting in Paris in 1855 should 
not be pressed to greater precision. Cf. Minutes and Reports of the Fifth Meeting of the 
Centtd Committee (Lucknow), p, 50. Interpretation, of the affirmation of faith by 
the member churches leaves to the decision of the individual denomination questions 
such as -whether 'acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ' necessarily supposes baptism 
(it doesn't in the Salvation Army or the Society of Friends) or whether 'as God and 
Saviour' is to be taken literally (it is not by the Remonstrantse Broederschapthe 
Arminian, Church-~of Holland). Moreover, as Professor L A. Zander pointed out 
in arguing against laying down a dogmatic criterion, since it is the churches which 
subscribe to the Basis, it is possible for a liberal theologian (one who does not believe in 
the divinity of Christ, for example) to participate in "World Council activities if he 
happens to belong to a church that has no binding confession, of faith, while another 
theologian, of more orthodox opinions, would be debarred if his church had formulated 
its doctrinal liberalism. Ojp. clt,, p, 5. 


each other because there is a unity given once for all in the person 
and work of their common Lord and because the Living Lord 
gathers His people together.' 

(b) It provides the orientation point for the work which the 
World Council undertakes, a point of reference for ecumenical 
conversations, an ultimate norm and standard for the activities 
of the Council. 

(c) It indicates the range of fellowship which the churches in the 
Council seek to establish, the criterion which must be met by a 
church which desires to join the Council. In presenting the 
'Draft Statement on the purposes and function of the Basis' to the 
Evanston Assembly, the Central Committee noted that the 
fundamental affirmation of Christian belief as incorporated into 
the Constitution 'is therefore less than a confession and more than 
a mere formula of agreement'. The question 'as to whether any 
particular church is in fact taking the Basis seriously', was, 
however, judged to be beyond the competence of the World 
Council. 1 

(2) The member Churches of the World Council believe on the 
basis of the New Testament that the Church of Christ is one. The 
second assumption is shared by all the member churches, although 
some attribute the oneness to the acceptance of a common 
doctrine and authority and to an historical continuity from an 
original church founded by Christ, while others find the oneness 
in 'a universal spiritual fellowship'. In the presence of the 'holy 
dissatisfaction with the present situation felt by men and women 
in many Churches' and in view of the divergence of opinion on 
whether the oneness of the Church of Christ already exists 
inchoately, is to be recovered, or is to be achieved in the future, 
the Toronto Statement concluded: 'The Churches realize that it 
is a matter of simple Christian duty for each Church to do its 
utmost for the manifestation of the Church in its oneness and to 
work and pray that Christ's purpose for His Church be fulfilled.' 

(3) The member Churches recognize that the membership of the 
Church of Christ is more inclusive than the membership of their own 

1 Evanston Assembly Work Book, pp. 51-3; and The First Six Years, pp. 9-10, 


Church body. They seek, therefore, to enter into living contact with 
those outside their own ranks who confess to the Lordship of Christ. 
The Churches arc agreed that by virtue of baptism and faith all 
individual Christians pertain somehow to the Church of Christ; 
they are in disagreement on whether corporate groups of Chris- 
tians, called 'churches', pertain to the Church of Christ as parts 
of a whole; they are agreed that, since membership in the Church 
of Christ is not restricted to the Christians 1 of a given ecclesiastical 
communion, the Churches should abandon their former isolation 
and seek fellowship in the Ecumenical Movement with all united 
in Christ; they are in disagreement on the consequences of their 

Because all Christians are somehow one in Christ, are they all, 
therefore, perforce one in the Church of Christ j The possibility 
of a distinction is a matter of disagreement and the divergence of 
views on die point touch the fundamental problem of the nature 
of die World Council. The problem was faced at Toronto in 
discussions which, according to the General Secretary, supplied 
'moments of anxiety when it seemed that the World Council 
had come to a real crisis in its history', 2 For at issue was the 
question; 'Do we want the kind of World Council in which some 
of the member churches deny that other member churches arc 
in a full and true sense churches?' 8 The answer was affirmative 
and, despite the cost to very human emotions in accepting a 
situation which allows the member churches to make such denials 
of one another, the crisis was surmounted. The discussion, 
concluded Dr. Visser 't Hooft, resulted in 'a deeper understanding 
both of die very real differences which exist between the member 
Churches of the Council in their conception of the Church and 
also of die not less real work of the Holy Spirit by which diese 
Churches are brought into fellowship with each other'. It was 
better, in the judgment of the Russian Ordiodox member of the 

1 But the World Council is by definition a fellowship of churches not of individual 

*BR m (October 1950), i, p. 77, 

8 The phrasing is that of the Rev. Oliver S. Tomkins, then Associate General Secretary 
of the World Council, m the Christian Centory ixvrt (August 9, 1950), 33, p. 944. 


Central Committee, to have doctrinal controversy than vague 
agreement. The differences frankly faced were acknowledged 
in the next 'assumption' which declared: 

(4) The member Churches of the World Council consider the re- 
lationship of other Churches to the Holy Catholic Church which the 
Creeds profess as a subject for mutual consideration?- Nevertheless, 
membership does not imply that each Church must regard the other 
member Churches as Churches in the true and full sense of the word. 
Is it possible to maintain a 'fellowship of churches' which accords 
to some the right to deem the deepest convictions of others 
presumptuous delusions? The issue notwithstanding all good- 
will and fraternal feeling was as stark as that. And it was 
despite all aspirations towards the unity that is 'Christ's purpose 
for his Church' inescapable. A member of the Central Com- 
mittee is reported to have declared with profound emotion that, 
if the substance of this assumption were removed, 'he would 
have to say good-bye after thirty years of devoted service in 
the ecumenical cause; neither he nor his church would be 
any more wanted'. 2 A spokesman for another theological 
tradition subsequently raised the question whether 'Churches 
which do not and cannot recognize other member Churches as 

1 Is there a point beyond which there is no further ground for 'mutual consideration'? 
Dr. Leonard Hodgson, former Theological Secretary of the Faith and Order Commission, 
seemed to suggest as much in Us lecture, 'The Task of the Third World Conference', at 
Lund in 1952, when he spoke of a 'chasm' in the divergent answers to the question 
'whether we beheve it to be God's will that the Church should be an earthly body with a 
continuing history in space and time. If any man thinks that the only continuity and unity 
required is that of the risen, ascended Lord, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and 
for ever, that He embodies Himself as and when He wilhn this or that group of men and 
women as corporately they make the response of faith, so that the same group can at 
different times be and not be the Church according to the presence or absence of faith if 
any man thinks this, I do not see how there can be any reconciliation of that belief with 
the conviction that there must be some kind of historical unity and continuity of the 
earthly body.' Oliver S. Tomkins (ed.), The Third World Conference on Faith and Order, 
Lund, 1952, p. 115 The dichotomy is expressed also in terms of authority in the Report 
of die American Theological Committee, presented by Professor Clarence T. Craig and 
published in The Nature of the Church, edited by R. Newton Flew, pp. 242-3. The 
crucial question is phrased in these words: 'Is it possible for a number of Christians 
(laymen) to organise themselves into a local church which will be an authentic part of 
the whole Church?' Ibid., pp. 343-4. 

8 Related by O. S. Tomkins in the Christian Century, op. tit., p. 945. Dr. Tom,kin, 
was present at the Toronto discussion, 


really part of the Cliurch, should have joined? Should they 
remain?' 1 

The Toronto discussion demonstrated that no ccclesiology, no 
matter how exclusive or exigent, is to be anathematized, that no 
Church willing to participate in the ecumenical dialogue is to be 
excluded from the Council. 'There is a place in the World 
Council,' said the Statement, 'both for those Churches which 
recognize other Churches as Churches in the full and true sense 
and for those which do not,' for, despite differences of faith and 
order, 'they recognize one another as serving the One Lord and 
they wish to explore their differences in mutual respect, trusting 
that they may be thus led by the Holy Spirit to manifest their 
unity in Christ/ 

(5) The member Churches of the World Council recognize in other 
Churches elements of the true Church. They consider that this mutual 
recognition obliges them to enter into a serious conversation with each 
other in the hope that these elements of truth will lead to the recognition 
of the full truth and to unity based on the full truth. 'These elements,' 
noted die Statement, '. . are a fact of real promise and provide 
an opportunity to strive by frank and brotherly intercourse for 
the realization of a fuller unity.' 

(6) The member Churches of the Council are willing to consult 
together in seeking to learn of the Lord Jesus what witness He would 
have them bear to the world in His name. In default of discussion 
elsewhere in the Statement, it must be assumed (although the 
paragraph of explanation is ambiguous) that this point concerns 
the possibility of common pronouncements on the social conse- 
quences of the Christian religion by the member churches of the 
World Council. 

The Constitution of the Council defines the fellowship in 
terms of its functions, the first of which are listed as: 

i. To carry on die work of the two world movements for 

Faith and Order and for Life and Work, 
ii. To facilitate common action by die Churches. 

1 C, T. Craig in ER ra (April 1951), 3, p. 3*8. 


This may well have been the aspect of the nature of the Council 
which the Archbishop of Canterbury, one of its six Presidents, 
had in mind when he assured a meeting of the British Council of 
Churches in Ireland nearly two years after the Toronto Statement: 

The World Council has no creed of its own. A Church, a denomina- 
tion, a sect has some credal basis which expresses its fundamental 
belief. . . . But the World Council is not a Church at all and it 

explicitly disavows any pretensions to be one It is supposed 

that the Basis 'our Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour' sufficiently 
expresses this Least Common Multiple of Christian co-operation. 1 

'The World Council of Churches,' said the Call to the Amsterdam 
Assembly, 'is itself both a declaration of the spiritual unity of its 
member churches and a means through which they may express 
that unity in action.' 2 'To promote this unity and to serve them 
(the churches) as an organ whereby they may bear witness 
together to their common faith and co-operate in matters 
requiring united action' was the formulation of this function 
issued by the Provisional Committee. 3 

Reservations on the part of the Orthodox 

Certainly the Orthodox Churches have persistently viewed 
the Ecumenical Movement primarily as a collaborative effort 
in the area of social and moral action. Indeed the official tide in 
Greek for the World Council of Churches is somewhat ambigu- 
ous. It is taken from the 'Message to all Churches of Christ 
everywhere', issued by the locum tenens of the Patriarchal 
Ecumenical throne and eleven Metropolitans in January 1920, 
calling for the creation of a League of Churches Koinonia ton 
Ekkksion (in the context of the recently established League of 
Nations: Koinonia ton Ethnon)-ot co-operative action on 
practical points of common policy by the Churches and against 
the moral evils tlireatening Christendom. 4 The point of view 

1 EPS, May 9, 1952. * Buck Hill Falls Minutes, p. 85. * Ibid., p. 90. 

4 G. K. A. Bell (ed,), Documents on Christian Unity (Fkst Series), pp. 44-8. 


was made even clearer by the twenty-two Orthodox delegates 
at the Lausanne Conference on Faith and Order in 1927 when 
they abstained from voting on the final proposals, the Metro- 
politan Germanos, a future President of the World Council, 
explaining in their name that 'the mind of the Orthodox Church 
is that reunion can take place only on the basis of the common 
faith and confession of the ancient, undivided Church of the 
seven Ecumenical Councils and of the first eight centuries'. 
They subscribed to the position of the Patriarch's Message of 
1930, in the light of which they concluded: 'We desire to declare 
that in our judgment the most which we can do now is to enter 
into co-operation with other Churches in the social and moral 
sphere on the basis of Christian love.' 1 As at Lausanne, Dr. 
Germanos, Metropolitan of Thyateira, author of the 1930 
'Message', read at the 1937 Edinburgh Faith and Order Confer- 
ence a declaration expressing the belief of the Orthodox delegates 
that the 'solid basis' of discussions on Church unity must be 'the 
dogmatic teaching of the ancient Church as it is found in the 
Holy Scriptures, the Creed, the decisions of the Ecumenical 
Synods and the whole life of the undivided Church'. 2 

The delegation appointed by the Provisional Committee of the 
World Council to visit the Churches of the Near East in the 
interest of the Amsterdam Assembly encountered (and seemingly 
accepted) an interpretation of the Council as an interdenomina- 
tional agency for social action. 3 As a result of the resolutions 
adoptedby the Conference of Representatives of the Autocephalous 
Orthodox Churches held at Moscow, July 8~-i8, 1948, only the 
Greek-speaking Churches, the Orthodox in the United States 
and the Russian Exarchate in Western Europe under the 

1 Faith and Order, Proceedings of the Lausanne Conference, pp, 384-5. 

a Leonard Hodgson (ed.), The Second World Conference on Faith and Order, p. I5<5. 

3 The agreed statement issued at Constantinople, February 17, 1947, reads; 'The Delega- 
tion representing the World Council of Churches has been, received at the Phanar by the 
Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and has held conversations with 
the Patriarch and Synodical Committee of the World Churches Movement. As a result 
of the meetings, the Holy and Sacred Synod and the Ecumenical Throne reaffirm in 
principle their co-operation with the Movement which seeks to achieve Christian 
co-ot>eration in all good works.' Buck Hill Falls Minutes, p, 109. 


jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch were represented at 
Amsterdam. 1 Speaking on their behalf, Archbishop Germanos felt 
obliged to make a special cautionary statement to the Assembly 
promising further Orthodox reflections on World Council 
activities. 2 One such judgment was expressed by the Ecumenical 
Patriarchate of Constantinople of which Archbishop Germanos 
had been for many years Exarch in the West with headquarters 
in London. In an encyclical letter of January 31, 1952, addressed 
to the Patriarchs and Heads of the Autocephalous Orthodox 
Churches, his Beatitude Athenagoras of Constantinople inter- 
preted the World Council as an ecclesiastical instrument for 
common action and a useful agency through which the religious 
truths of Orthodoxy can be imparted to 'the heterodox' and 
Western techniques of church organization learned. 3 

At the Evanston Assembly the Metropolitan Gennadios of 
Heliopolis explained the purpose and spirit of Orthodox partici- 
pation in ecumenical gatherings: it is the frank proclamation of 
the Orthodox faith and the refusal to consider either the belief 
or the ecclesiastical constitution of the undivided Church over a 
thousand-year period a subject for review or discussion. The 
Orthodox groups participating in the Ecumenical Movement, 

1 Nicholas Zernov, 'The Eastern Churches and die Ecumenical Movement', in History, 
p. 667. In addition to these twenty official delegates there were twenty other Orthodox 
from the United States and from a section of the Russian Church in Exile present at 
Amsterdam as 'observers' or youth visitors or members of the staff. 

2 'We welcome, nevertheless, this occasion to express the general feeling of the 
Orthodox delegation that, owing to conditions now prevailing in our churches, we 
have not had sufficient time for the preparation for this Conference and, therefore, we 
must base ourselves especially upon the consideration of our churches which in due time 
will express themselves about the World Council of Churches and its aspirations.' 
Amsterdam, p. 220. 

3 'It is, therefore, quite clear that the principal aim of the [World] Council is a practical 
one and that its task is pleasing to God as an attempt and a manifestation of a noble desire 
that die churches of Christ should face together the great problems of humanity. Because 
this is the aim of the World Council and also because the Orthodox Church in her past 
participation in die pan-Christian movement has sought to make known and impart to 
the heterodox the riches of her faith, worship and order and her religious and ascetic ex- 
perience, as well as to inform herself about their new methods and their conceptions of 
church life and activity (things of great value that the Orthodox Church could not possess 
and foster on account of the particular conditions in which she lived), we consider that in 
many ways the future participation and co-operation of the Orthodox Church with the 
World Council of Churches is necessary.' ER v (January 1953), 2, pp. 167-9. 


then, have always made clear their understanding of a restrictive 
conception of the World Council's function; they would limit it, 
seemingly, to a collaboration of the churches for the practical 
purpose of improving social conditions. 

Other elements in the ecumenical constituency felt that this 
function of bearing a common witness before the world should 
be kept paramount. After the Lund Conference of Faith and 
Order in August 1952, where the General Secretary of the World 
Council urged that the object of visible Church unity should have 
a central place in the deliberation of future Assemblies, the 
editorial voice of the Social Gospel emphasis in France found the 
whole trend in the Council a disturbing distraction from the 
proper concerns of the Ecumenical Movement: ( Le Christianisme 
Social, troubled by the tragic developments in the world, had 
put more hope in die Life and Work Movement than in the 
Faith and Order Movement. Now that they are united, may 
theological imperialism never absorb and destroy interest in 
human problems/ 1 A devoted collaborator of the World Council, 
Professor Walter Horton, had expressed the hope even after 
Amsterdam that the Life and Work movement might be able 
to maintain a separate identity. He listed the principal reason in 
italics: 'to keep the liberal consensus from breaking up\ explaining 
that many extreme liberals (the Czechoslovak National Church, 
for example), active in Life and Work, do not subscribe to die 
theology of the World Council Basis. 2 

Does the bearing of a common witness before the world by 
the member churches suppose not merely a consensus of purpose, 
programme and objectives in the temporal order but a further 
and deeper spiritual unity, a visible, institutional oneness? Does 
co-operation for common action call for the spiritual solidarity 
of a single Church (however achieved)? Well before the World 
Council was constituted, an American ecumenical leader, Dr. 
Samuel McCrea Cavert, Chairman of the Committee on Atrange- 
mcnts for the Amsterdam Assembly, prophesied that priority 

1 Pierre Poujol in die issue of Oct-Nov, (Nos. lo-xi), 1952, p, 577, 
4 Towards a Reborn Church, p. 18. 


would have to be accorded to the search for unity among the 
member churches if only in the interests of the effectiveness of 
the Council's work in the world. 1 In any case, the protestation 
of some of the pioneers of the Life and Work movement that 
'doctrines divide, action unites', the premise of the Stockholm. 
Conference that it was possible to concentrate on 'united practical 
action . . . leaving for the time our differences in Faith and Order', 
appeared abysmally innocent as the organized Ecumenical 
Movement acquired more experience and the 'holy dissatisfaction' 
with present divisions manifested itself more and more imperi- 
ously in the member churches. 

This common witness before the world to a common Lord, 
the subject of consultation of the member churches, is described 
in the sixth 'assumption' of the Toronto Statement as 'God's 
gracious gift' enabling them to manifest 'something of the unity, 
the purpose of which is precisely "that the world may believe" 
and that they may "testify that the Father has sent the Son to be 
the Saviour of the World"'. Is it here being suggested that the 
World Council's analyses of social disorder and its programme 
of practical charity, its aid to refugees, for example, are a form of 

The question is occasioned by the ambiguity of the paragraph 
of explanation (written, to be sure, by theologians) and by the 
absence of discussion in World Council literature on the place 
of study of social questions or of co-operation with international 

1 'Perhaps the crucial question has to do with the character and essential genius of the 
"World Council itself during the earlier years of its organized life. Is it to be primarily 
concerned with the relations of the Churches to each other or is its major emphasis to be 
on the relations of the Church to the world at large? . . . But the painful question arises 
whether the Churches have attained sufficient unity among themselves to enable them 
to speak to the world in a way which will cause the world to listen. Until they can 
demonstrate in their relations with each other the power of the moral and spiritual 
standards which they recommend to the nations, can they expect the world to give 
heed? . . . The Churches cannot wait to speak until their own internal problems have 
been fully solved, yet they cannot speak convincingly until those problems have been 
solved. The World Council must therefore develop the two lines of responsibility at the 
same time. But for the sake of having a voice that will carry moral authority the primary 
emphasis must be laid to the Churches' achieving unity among themselves which will 
afford hope that through Christ the unity of mankind is possible.' Epilogue in William 
Adams Brown, Towards a United Church, p. 200-1. 


organizations. Are social order and international peace goods 
worth working for by the Christian for their own sake? Has the 
Temporal City a certain autonomy that should be respected in 
all efforts to keep its foundations in a constant state of repair and 
its ramparts in a constant state of readiness? Or must all work for 
the common good, all public service which the Greeks called 
leitourgia, be undertaken primarily to lead co-workers to partici- 
pate in the Liturgy of the Churches? The questions concern the 
Social Philosophy of the "World Council and cover points seem- 
ingly not yet studied in the Council's constituency. 

(7) A further practical implication of common membership in the 
World Council is that the members should recognize their solidarity 
with each other, render assistance to each other in case of need, and 
refrain from such actions as are incompatible with brotherly relationships. 
Frank affirmation of convictions, despite differences, and mutual 
aid, particularly in times of need and persecution, are suppositions 
of the solidarity expressed by membership in the Council, the 
Toronto Statement declared. However, 'actions incompatible 
with brotherly relationships towards other member Churches 
defeat the very purpose for which the Council has been created'. 
Presumably, proselytismis here meant and implicitly condemned. 1 

(8) The member Churches enter into spiritual relationships through 
which they seek to learn from each other and to give help to each other 
in order that the Body of Christ may be built up and that the life of the 
Churches may be renewed. 'The World Council of Churches,' 
noted the Report of the Amsterdam Assembly's Section I, 'has 
come into existence because we have already recognised a 
responsibility to one another's churches in our Lord Jesus Christ. 
. . . Before God, we are responsible for one another.' 2 The 
Toronto Statement points out that a mutual exchange of thought 
and experience is an obligation arising from the spiritual 

1 However, the Survey prepared for the Faith and Order Section of the Evanston 
Assembly noted: 'While many will agree that membership in the Council clearly means 
not to reject another member church by anathema or by the making of proselytes, die 
question remains an open one for others, subject to careful scrutiny in particular areas and 
with respect to particular circumstances of religious life.' CHTC, p. 46, The Evanston 
Assembly set up a continuing study of proselytizing. 

2 Amsterdam, p. 57. 


relationship that is the result of the churches 'covenanting 
together' to constitute the World Council. 

Apart from the responsibilities resulting from the spiritual 
relationships of the member churches in the World Council, 
what in their essence are these spiritual relationships? To ask the 
question is to seek anew to define, under a different guise, the 
nature of the World Council and to encounter afresh the inherent 
paradox of the ecumenical entity. 1 The World Council certainly 
sees itself as something of immensely more spiritual significance 
than an agency 'breathing the atmosphere not of undenomina- 
tionalism but of inter denominationarism', as one commentator 
on the Toronto Statement described it. 2 It has been suggested 
that the empirical reality which emerged from the decision taken 
by the member churches at Amsterdam on August 23, 1948, bears 
some comparison to the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, 
founded at Eisenach earlier the same year. The efforts at self- 
analysis of these two expressions of ecumenicism, as well as the 
controversies thereby provoked, have sufficient parallel to justify 
a short excursus into the recent religious history of modern 

When Hitler came to power there existed (in addition to the 
United Church in Old Prussia, an alliance of diverse Evangelical 
denominations) a federation of Lutheran and Reformed churches 
dating from 1922, an association which left the interior structure 
and creedal position of the two ecclesiastical communions un- 
touched. Announcing its purpose of 'deconfessionalizing public 
life', the Nazi State in 1933 ordered the formation of a unified 
Evangelical Church. For religion, too, was to be centralized, 
organized, rationalized in accordance with the regime's policy 

1 'The nature of the World Council of Churches cannot be stated simply without 
stating it wrongly. It can only be stated as a paradox. State the paradox wrongly and 

you are left with a contradiction The paradox may be stated thus: "The "World 

Council is a fellowship of churches which, accepting our Lord Jesus Christ as God and 
Saviour, is united in believing that he wills, in some sense, a great unity for his church, 
but is divided in understanding the nature of that unity. This paradox becomes a contra- 
diction if the differences in understanding the nature of the unity of the church go so deep 
that they destroy the grounds of fellowship." ' Oliver S. Tomkins, Christian Century, 
op. cit,, p. 944. 

* Professor William Robinson, ER ra (April 1951), 3, P- 256. 


of Gleichschaltung. Invoking the Filhrcrprinzip, the Third Reich 
gave this unitary Evangelical Church a single superior in the 
person of a Reichsbischof. Resistance to this perversion of religion 
was expressed by groups from Lutheran, Reformed and United 
communions who formed the Confessional Church (Bekenntniss- 
klrche) which gathered in a synod at Barmen in 1934 and issued 
its celebrated Declaration as testimony of a common Protestant 
heritage. Defying the pretensions of totalitarianism, the Barmen 
Declaration proclaimed the imprescriptible rights of Christ and 
the freedom of the Church, a community not constituted by the 
Diktat of any human authority but created by the Holy Spirit 
and maintained by the preaching of the Gospel and the administra- 
tion of the Sacraments, a community which is only 'the Church' 
to the degree in which it confesses and proclaims the Word of 
God. The influence of the dialectical theology of Karl Barth on 
the Declaration of Barmen was unmistakable. 

The prophetic affirmation of faith of Barmen clarified the issue 
against the collaborating 'German Christians'. It also occasioned 
a re-examination of the theology of the Lutheran and Reformed 
traditions especially concerning the nature of the Church, the 
doctrine of the Lord's Supper and the authority of the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy. Prominent in the resistance of the Evangelical churches 
to Nazism were the Brotherhood Covincils (Brudendte) of die 
United Church of Prussia, groups principally of Calvinist 
orientation whose best-known spokesman was Pastor Martin 
Niemoller. The Brotherhood Councils considered the Barmen 
Declaration the Charter of a Church (though such an interpreta- 
tion was excluded by the document itself) and held that the 
common convictions shared by all members of the different 
Evangelical traditions were more important than their doctrinal 
divergences. Emphasizing die fact rather than the content of 
belief, they found the core of Christianity in the act of faith 
where God reveals his presence to die believer, the Church being 
the place where the divine initiative in the form of preaching 
and sacraments manifests itself. 

On the other hand, Lutheran opinion, particularly in the 


Landeskirchen, emphasized the content rather than the act of faith 
and held that the Church can only exist where there is an accep- 
tance of basic articles of belief, as expressed in the historic formu- 
laries of the Reformation era, and an authoritative teaching on 
the Lord's Supper. The tension between these two traditions 
produced a crisis in the Confessional Church and a schism at the 
Synod of Oeynhausen. The tensions continue within the Evan- 
gelical Church in Germany, constituted at Eisenach in 1948, and 
embracing three ecclesiastical communions differing in organiza- 
tion and cult, in their conceptions of the nature of the Church 
and on other points of theology involving baptism and marriage. 
Lutheran groups tend to consider the EKiD a simple Bund, 1 a 
federation of churches. A few days before the Eisenach meeting 
establishing the EKiD, they had formed the United Evangelical 
Lutheran Church in Germany (VELKD), an entity which, they 
deem, has the essential marks of the Church. Germans of 
Calvinist orientation, on the other hand, tend to identify the 
EKiD with the Church. The "World Council at Amsterdam 
listed it as a Church. 2 

The value of the comparison with the EKiD lies in the existence 
of opinion that the World Council manifests dynamically some 
characteristics of essential 'Churchness'. 3 Although the Toronto 
Statement repeats the Amsterdam affirmation that the Council 
is not a super-Church, adding the explicit disavowal that it is 
not 'the Una Sancta of which the Creeds speak', the spiritual 
relations between the member churches which it represents are 

1 A footnote in History (p. 467) indicates the relevance of comparing the EKiD and 
the WCC: 'How, then, is the word Bimd to be interpreted? Is it union, federation, 
confederation or fellowship? It is precisely on this point that different views are held in 
the Church itself; and any account of it which goes beyond citing, in German, its official 
documents is exposed to criticism from one side or another.' 

* Amsterdam (p. 233) also records the Swiss Protestant Church Federation among the 
'Churches represented at the Assembly". 

3 Even before the member churches officially committed themselves at Amsterdam 
'to stay together', the view that the Ecumenical Movement represented a spiritual reality 
organically related to the One Church was voiced, as in these words from a Report of 
the 1937 Oxford Conference of Life and Work: 'We speak as Christians; that is ... as 
members of the many particular Churches congregational, denominational, national, 
free, or established, or other forms of the Christian society, in which the Life of the one 
Church finds varying expression.' Oxford, pp. 77-8. 


felt to constitute some sort of spiritual entity, currently escaping 
satisfactory definition, but destined to develop, perhaps by the 
transformation, chrysalis-fashion, of its present organization, 
revealing a more unified Christian community. The Survey 
prepared for the Faith and Order Section of the Evanston 
Assembly closes its discussion on 'What May the Council 
Become?' with the judgment: 

Since die purpose of the Council is not to be a federation nor to 
become a World-Church by synthetically appropriating the diverse 
doctrines and polities of member churches, it must always look 
forward to its own decrease so that the manifestation of the oneness 
of the Church may increase. 1 

'For the Council,' the Toronto Statement noted, 'exists to break 
the deadlock between the Churches.' As the conversations 
between the churches develop and as the churches enter into 
closer contact with each other, they will no doubt have to face 
new decisions and problems. 

3. Unity and Autonomy 

The authors of the Toronto Statement were confident that: 
'None of these positive assumptions, implied in the existence of 
the World Council, is in conflict with the teachings of the 
member Churches.' The eight responses received from the 
1 60 member churches 2 indicate that the confidence of the Central 
Committee was justified. However, though it made no reference 
to the Toronto Statement, the 1952 encyclical letter of the 
Patriarch of Constantinople defining the purpose of the World 
Council as primarily practical 3 and counselling against participation 
in Faith and Order discussions, 'since this Commission of the 

* CHTC, p. 48. ? Ibid., pp. 1 5-1 (5. 

8 The point of view of the Oriental Churches must be difficult for the World Council 
officials to comprehend on occasion. Thus die Consultation of the representatives of the 
Autoccphalous Orthodox Churches, held at Moscow in July 1948, opposed participation 
in the World Council because it was concentrating on social problems to the neglect of 
the search for dogmatic unity. The resolution adopted declared: 'The direction, of the 
efforts of the ecumenical movement into the channels of social and political life, and 
towards the creation of an "Ecumenical Church" as an influential international force, 


Council seeks to promote the union of the Churches', must be 
considered an implicit reservation on the exposition of the 
ecclesiological significance of the World Council contained in 
the 1950 document. At the Lund Faith and Order Conference 
in August 1952 the Patriarch's representative in the West, 
Archbishop Athenagoras, Metropolitan of Thyateira, proffered 
the excuses of the Greek Church for its absence and explained 
the mode of participation of the Orthodox delegates in future 
meetings of the World Council. 1 

The confidence of the Central Committee that the Toronto 
Statement conflicted with the teaching of none of the member 
churches was largely founded on the reassurance of the autonomy 
of each ecclesiastical communion within the Council. Indeed 
die Amsterdam Assembly resolution on 'The Authority of the 
Council* was reprinted as the Introduction to the Toronto 
Statement, renewing the description of the World Council as 
'an instrument' of the member churches, expressly prevented 
by its Constitution from usurping any of the functions which 
already belong to its constituent churches or from legislating 
for them or from controlling them in any fashion. Concerning 
decisions looking to a larger unity, 'the churches remain wholly 

appears to us to be a falling into the temptation rejected by Christ in the wilderness. . . . 
During the last ten. years (1937-48) the question of the reunion of the Churches on a 
basis of dogma and doctrine has no longer been discussed. This has been put back to a 
secondary and educational r61e, directed to the use of future generations. This being so, 
the contemporary ecumenical movement no longer attempts to secure the reunion of the 
Churches by spiritual ways and means.' The Acts of the Consultation of the heads and 
representatives of the Autocephabus Orthodox Churches (Moscow, 1949), n, pp. 435-6 as 
quoted by Zernov (loc. cit.) who adds: 'It was on the strength of these conclusions that the 
Moscow Consultation decided to refrain from participation in the ecumenical movement 
as at present constituted.' Present at the Moscow meeting were representatives of the 
Church of Greece and Archbishop Germanos, Exarch of the Patriarchate of Constanti- 
nople, destined to become a President of the World Council of Churches. 

1 Orthodox theologians will be allowed at future Conferences 'to make only positive 
and definite statements about our faith without being involved in sterile disputes or voting 
for resolutions . . . which cannot be settled in this way'. Delegates 'will be ready to give 
information on questions relative to the teaching of our Church but not to express their 
opinions or even the opinion of our Church on the teaching of your Churches. We do 
not come to criticise other Churches but to help them, to illumine their mind in a 
brotherly manner by informing them about the teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and 
Apostolic Church which is the Greek Orthodox Church, unchanged since the apostolic 
era.' O. S. Tomkins (ed.), The Third World Conference on Faith and Order, pp. 125-6. 


free', the Central Committee repeated in 1950, 'in the action 
which, on the basis of their convictions and in the light of their 
ecumenical contacts, they will or will not take'. 

Whatever authority the World Council possesses as an 
organizational entity, therefore, resides in the Assembly of official 
delegates of the constituent churches and, between Assemblies, 
in the Central Committee elected by them, whose members 
in turn represent specific ecclesiastical groups. None of the 
World Council's executive departments is endowed with a super- 
confessional personality. 'Each individual represents a voice in 
the Council,' remarked the General Secretary, 'rather than the 
voice q/the Council.' 1 Rule IX of the Constitution circumscribes 
the manner in which public statements may be issued by an 
organ of the Council and emphasizes the full freedom of the 
member churches to accept, ignore or reject the positions taken. 
To indicate that the Assembly, the centre of authority in the 
Council, is essentially an agency of the churches which have 
'covenanted together', Reports presented are 'received' (not 
'adopted') and, with the consent of the official delegates of the 
member communions, 'commended to the churches for their 
serious consideration and appropriate action'. The Resolution 
of the Central Committee in 1950 approving the armed inter- 
vention of the United Nations in Korea committed none of the 
churches nor all of them, it was carefully explained later. A 
Committee on Structure and Functioning, after an examination 
of the Secretariat, recommended that all documents should bear 
a clear indication of their degree of authority. Reports of 
conferences sponsored by the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey on 
contemporary social problems, for example, should indicate 
that die conclusions reached arc not necessarily World Council 
judgments. 2 

At a later point in this study, attention will be devoted to the 
difficulty of obtaining an ecumenical consensus and the circum- 
stances conditioning the formulating of clear pronouncements 

1 W. A. Visser "t Hooft in Hotntnage et Reconnaissance, p. ao. 
* Lucknow Minutes, p. 86. 


on social and international issues. The problem derives largely 
from the ambiguous nature of the World Council which has 
been described as a chemical solution in suspension whose 
elements still escape adequate analysis. Seeing itself as more than 
a mere association of churches, this matrix of a continuing 
ecumenical dialogue, whose subject and purpose is church unity, 
disavows any independent jurisdiction over those engaged in the 
fraternal discussion or control over the trend of their talk. The 
resulting tension is intrinsic to a Council representing a search 
for unity by constituents maintaining full autonomy of decision. 
The Executive Committee adverted to this problem in a letter 
addressed to the member churches after the Central Committee 
had adopted the controversial Resolution on Korea: 

The chief task of die World Council of Churches is to maintain and 
develop the fellowship between the Christian Churches. But we 
recognize that the World Council has also the important task of 
giving concrete witness to the Lordship of Christ and to the implica- 
tions of His Lordship for national and international life. We were all 
the time conscious of these two obligations which, things being as 
they are, often enter into conflict. 1 

In the frequently repeated phrase of Archbishop Temple any 
authority of the Council among its constituent members consists 
'in the weight it carries with the Churches by its own wisdom'. 2 
'For,' concluded the Toronto Statement, 'the Council exists to 
serve the Churches as they prepare to meet their Lord who knows 
only one flock.' 

It is the decisions of the participating ecclesiastical communions 
which will shape the future of the fellowship created at Amster- 
dam in 1948 and, in so doing, clarify the nature and authority 
of the World Council of Churches. 

1 ER m (April 1951), 3, p. 267. 

8 In the 'Explanatory Memorandum' which accompanied the Letter of Invitation to 
the Churches to join the Council. Documents of the WorU Council of Churches, p. 16. 




'THE "World Council of Churches has come into being at a 
moment of peril for all mankind which is without precedent in 
the whole of human history.' 1 In public pronouncements, par- 
ticularly at the Amsterdam Assembly, the Council has analysed 
the deep disorder characteristic of contemporary society and the 
world of nations; it has suggested a general strategy (and pro- 
claimed a Christian mandate) for achieving a more equitable 
social order, one closer to the exigencies of the Christian vision 
of the world. What are the sources of the Council's social 
analyses, the bases of its judgments on human institutions, the 
criteria of its recommendations? What in the most general 
sense of the term is the social philosophy of the World Council 
of Churches? 2 Such an inquiry, suggesting at first sight a task of 

1 Henry P. Van Duscn in the General Introduction to the Amsterdam Assembly Series 
of volumes (New York: Harper & Bros., 1948). 

a The inquiry is legitimate and has been of continuing interest to Life and "Work and 
the World Council As early as 1932 Life and Work's Research Section sponsored a 
conference on 'Church, Creed and Social Morality' and published in 1935 a symposium 
'Une EnquSte sur 1'Ethique Sodale des Bgliscs'. A search for a social philosophy is 
certainly implied in the background questions suggested by Dr. Nils Ehteustr5m, some- 
time Director of the World Council's Study Department, to the collaborators of one of 
the Oxford Conference preparatory volumes: 'How far arc the various spheres of the 
common life, like the family, economics, the state and the world order, to be regarded 
as manifestations of the will of God? Has God a purpose for the ordering of these spheres 
as well as for the action of Christians in these spheres? Is a distinctively Christian judgment 
on the structure of society possible, or does this apply only to the motives of persons acting 
within this structure? If God has a purpose for the ordering of the common life, what 
are the sources and grounds of the Christian's knowledge of that purpose, and in what 
respects docs the Christian differ from the non-Christian in his understanding of this 
purpose? Has the Church as a corporate body a specific capacity for understanding and 


synopsis if not synthesis, yields no simple summary. The search 
for a comprehensive and coherent answer to the question must 
take into account the history and nature of the World Council. 

It must not be forgotten that it was only with the formation 
of the World Council at Amsterdam in 1948 that the member 
churches formally committed themselves to engage in the 
ecumenical dialogue. Previous conferences, such as those of 
Stockholm and Oxford, for example, had been the outcome of 
the enthusiasm of interested individuals, authorized to represent 
their churches but without responsibility beyond their personal 
loyalty to an ideal for the outcome of any continuing project. 
It is no reflection on the faithfulness of these pioneers to observe 
that, quite apart from national and denominational differences, 
geographical distances and the length of time between meetings 
made the pursuit of a common ground of social analysis difficult. 
In the twelve years between Stockholm and Oxford a certain 
ecumenical amnesia was inevitable. It is reported that not one 
of the tliirty-five delegates lodged in one of Oxford's colleges 
for the 1937 Conference had ever heard of Archbishop Nathan 
Soderblom before his memory was invoked on the opening day. 
Yet Soderblom was the dominant figure at the previous Confer- 
ence at Stockholm and the first President of the Continuation 
Committee which evolved into the Universal Christian Council 
for Life and Work. He had died just six years earlier. The 
Amsterdam Assembly paid reverence to the leaders of the 
Ecumenical Movement who had helped to draft the provisional 

interpreting God's purpose for society' How far are human existence and behaviour 
conditioned by sub-personal factors, and how far are these factors controllable by human 
thought and will' Are the various spheres of human life in society subject to relatively 
independent and diverse laws of their own, and if so, what is the nature and what are the 
limits of that autonomy? May there be a difference in the will of God for a Christian 
concerning his action as a private person and his action in his official and public capacity? 
Can the Christian commandment of love be realized in all spheres of life' If not, what 
are the limits of such realization and what alternative principles are applicable and 
binding (e.g. justice and loyalty) ?' Cf Introduction to Christian Faith and the Common Life, 
pp. io-n. The Provisional Committee of the World Council directed the Study Depart- 
ment in preparation for the Amsterdam Assembly and particularly for the work of 
Sections III and IV to undertake an inquiry on 'the Biblical Authority for the Church's 
Social and Political Message today', a continuing project that has included conferences 
on the foundations of International Law and the basis of human justice. 


constitution of the World Council at Utrecht in 1938 and had 
not lived to see the completion of the enterprise they had en- 
visaged. For the younger delegates the names were undoubtedly 
personalities of ecclesiastical history. Even today the World 
Council, as an instrument of the member churches for common 
tasks, is obviously dependent on the amount of interest a given 
project engenders among die confessional groups. 

The Study Department, moreover, is not supposed to contrive 
a social philosophy for the World Council. Its exclusive function 
is to stimulate ecumenical thinking and provide an exchange of 
views. The fulfilment of that function is affected by differing 
interests in the member churches, by a dependence on the co- 
operation of collaborators, frequently fully-occupied professors, 
and currently by die ideological division of the world. As the 
Director of the Study Department reported at the Lucknow 
Meeting of die Central Committee: 'In spite of the best of 
intentions, in spite of all efforts to redress the imbalance, we must 
admit that it [the study programme] is still predominantly 
Western in outlook and execution.' 1 

A further factor complicating the elaboration of a common 
social philosophy, a common basis of social criticism, derives 
from the very nature of the World Council which is an association 
of distinct ecclesiastical entities each having its proper ethical 
inspiration and emphasis. The General Secretary high-lighted 
the problems occasioned by this fact when discussing the authority 
of the World Council to make public pronouncements on current 
issues. 2 

1 Lucknow Minutes, p. 52, 

a 'The particular churches speak on the basis of their confessions and (or) their confes- 
sional theologies. Their witness is an application of all that their members have heard 
and learned in their common effort to live by the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. 
Within these churches there may be considerable divergences and tensions but there are 
nevertheless common "traditions" which enable each of them to speak in one voice. Now 
the World Council has no such background. It has nothing but its basis, which is inter- 
preted in different ways, It has no common spiritual language. The meaning of witness 
and confession is understood differently by different churches. And while they are all at one 
in recognizing the authority of Holy Scripture, there are deep divergences between diem 
as to the actual significance of that authority for the life of the Church.' W. A. Visser 
't Hoofb, The Significance of die World Council of Churches', The Universal Church in 
God's Design, p. 189. 


A study of the social philosophy of the World Council of 
Churches promises no facile answers. 


The differences of approach among the "World Council's 
member churches in the field of ethics are not unrelated to the 
differences in the field of theology which manifest themselves in 
ecumenical discussions on church union. There are, in fact, two 
main currents of thought concerning the conception and content 
of a social philosophy in the World Council constituency as there 
are two principal points of view in the understanding and 
methodology of the Ecumenical Community on questions of 
Faith and Order. The First Assembly recognized this latter fact 
and attributed to the two divergent positions 'our deepest differ- 
ence*. It assigned to each a descriptive term which by reason of 
its ecclesiastical ambiguity is not very apposite in the present 
context. 1 The language of the Amsterdam Report can be 
employed, however, in acknowledging that in questions of social 
philosophy also, the two categories each represent 'a whole cor- 
porate tradition of the understanding of Christian faith and life'; 
and to indicate that in ethics as in ecclesiology the two con- 
ceptions 'are inconsistent with each other 5 . 2 

As captions for these two categories which include divergent 
points of view on the basis of human justice and the method of 
appraising social institutions, recourse will be had to a distinction 
introduced into ecumenical discourse at the time of the Oxford 
Conference. In a background volume for that 1937 gathering of 
the World Council's predecessor, the Universal Christian. 
Council for Life and Work, the Organizing Secretary, Dr. 
Joseph H. Oldham, spoke of an 'ethic of ends' and an 'ethic of 
inspiration'. 8 It was the second of these approaches that Dr. 
Oldham favoured as essential if 'the Church [is] to take its part 
in the creation of a new world'. 

1 Cf. Appendix. * Amsterdam, p. 52. 

8 W. A. Visser 't Hooft and J. H, Oldham, The Church and its Function in Society, 
pp. 234ff- 


As described by Dr. Oldham, 'the ethic of inspiration' insists 
that the fundamental and characteristic Christian moral attitude 
is not obedience to fixed norms or to a moral code but a living 
response to a living person, a fellowship with God who is 
sovereignly free and whose Will is sought for a present personal 
decision. Archbishop Temple once evidenced this outlook in 
declaring that revelation is not truth about God but the living 
God Himself. An 'ethic of ends', on the other hand, is based on an 
idea of the proper ordering of society and its parts whose overall 
purposes and particular functions are discoverable by a rational 
examination of their nature and operations. Such a system of 
ethics presents, if you will, a static conception in the sense that 
any analysis brings the actuality of a myriad of economic trans- 
actions and personal encounters to a halt in the mind and fixes 
their ideal relationships; for an 'ethic of ends' supposes a meaning- 
ful universe and, in the light of that general conception of 
teleology, assigns goals for economic and political institutions, 
appraises programmes, projects the direction of corrective 
legislation and commands personal action according to norms 
derived from a fixed hierarchy of values. 

The conflict between these two approaches to social morality is 
another phase of the debate between the advocates of the Natural 
Law versus the Bible alone as the criterion of judgment on social 
problems. As in all debates, differences are magnified and purely 
debating points made by each side. Some of the language of 
the Amsterdam Report on Social Questions suggests a complete 
reliance on an 'ethic of inspiration'. 1 On the other hand, the 
delineation of the Responsible Society, adumbrated at Amsterdam 
and depicted in larger detail at Evanston, supposes an 'ethic of 
ends', a settled conception of the objective kind of social order 
meeting Christian requirements. 

The Secretary of the Section on Social Questions at the Second 
Assembly reported 'a growing ecumenical consensus about the 

1 e,g. '. . . preaching of Christian truth in ways that illuminate the historical conditions. 
, , . The Church . . . inspires its members to ask in a new way what their Christian re- 
sponsibility is.' Declarations by the Church in 'the form of warnings against concrete 
forms of injustice' evoke the idea of 'prophetic utterances'. Amsterdam, pp. 8i~a. 


basis of Christian social concern' as embodied in the inquiry 
'for want of a better word . . . called the Responsible Society'. 
The value of the study project is said to lie in the fact that 'it 
suggests the positive social goals towards which Christians should 
work and it provides ethical criteria to help Christians in their 
efforts to reshape the existing social order'. 1 'Positive social 
goals' presuppose a discoverable hierarchy of values; 'ethical 
criteria' are objective norms of moral judgment; both are essential 
elements of a social philosophy of the 'ethic of ends' category. 
However, the author, who is the Secretary of the World Council's 
Department on Church and Society, believes that the ethical 
approach based on 'positive social goals' and 'ethical criteria' is 
compatible with the ethical emphasis rejecting 'fixed norms' and 
relying on 'a living response to a Person'. 

If such compatibility is possible and the continuance of the two 
ethical emphases is a permanent fact of ecumenical discourse, 
the author's conclusion is inescapable: 'There is not and probably 
will not be full agreement about the principles and standards 
which should be used by Christians to guide their thinking about 
social problems.' The observation would seem to warrant the 
verdict that the possession of a coherent social philosophy is 
beyond the expectation of the Ecumenical Community, a situation 
jeopardizing the justification of the present study and enfeebling 
the possibility of the elaboration by the World Council of 
Churches of any consistent social policy. On the other hand, 
the 'deepest difference', though theological in origin, is also 
immensely worth investigating as it shows itself in the approach 
to social ethics and the formulation of social policies. It must 
be repeated, however, that the essential differences between 
'an ethic of inspiration' and 'an ethic of ends' are theological, for 
the divergences repose on conflicting conceptions of human 
nature, and therefore on varying judgments on man s spiritual 
possibilities, the mode of his apprehension of truth, natural and 
divine, his relationship to his Maker and to Jesus Christ, the bond 
of his union with his fellows, the value of human effort, the 

1 Paul Abrecht, 'Christian Action in Society', ER n (Winter 1950), 2, p. 143- 


purpose of society, the origin and object of the State in short, all 
the areas of human intercourse and community action that are 
the proper concern of a social philosophy. 1 The present work, 
as the Preface noted, is not a theological study. Nevertheless, it 
will be possible to examine the ethical attitudes present in the 
World Council constituency and their manifestations in the field 
of social policy making an overt or, certainly, any 
extended excursus into the field of dogmatics. Some of the 
theological roots of the conflict between an 'ethic of ends' and an 
'ethic of inspiration* will be indicated in an Appendix. 


The sources of the truth on which to base judgments of political 
trends and social institutions, the foundation of any commendatory 
or condemnatory verdicts, is a crucial question in. the construction 
of a social philosophy. On this point the differences between the 
'ethic of ends' emphasis and the 'ethic of inspiration' emphasis 
in the churches constituting the World Council assert themselves. 

It is impossible to estimate how widespread, even among the 
heirs of pietism, is the confidence in a meta-rational, quasi-aesthetic 
capacity for sensing moral goodness, described in a volume 
prepared in connexion with the Oxford Life and Work Confer- 
ence of 193 y. 2 For practical purposes, however, the membership 
of the World Council divides on the key question of the Natural 
Law as an expression of the divine Will for human conduct, on 
the capacity of reason as an adequate mode of apprehending 
moral truth. The difference of opinion rests ultimately, to be 
sure, on conflicting theological appraisals of human nature. They 
are, therefore, radical; and they are important, for they concern 

1 This has been demonstrated in the case of Barth, Brunner and Niebuhr as leaders of 
the New Reformation Theology by Theodore Alexander GUI in a University of ZUrich 
dissertation published as Recent Protestant Political Theory. 

a 'How does, or should, the Christian reach a judgment upon any moral question? . . . 
He develops a moral sensitivity or tact which has at least something of the distinctively 
Christ-style or Christ-mind in it. ... Somewhere in all moral decision the Christian 
has to come to rest in immediate intuition of this sort.' Professor Herbert Henry 
Farmer in Christian Faith and the Common Life, pp. 158-9. 


tlie problem, of the relation of the Christian faith to the social 
order which the World Council avers is part of its responsibility. 
The Christian religion, by definition, is concerned with the 
ultimate issues of human existence. Economic processes and 
political programmes are concerned, comparatively speaking, 
with proximate issues. What is the connexion between the two? 
To confuse them, to deny the importance of keeping ultimates 
and proximates separate, is to turn religion into sociology or, 
conversely, political science into biblical talmudism. How is the 
Christian to use the insights of his faith to guide him in making 
judgments on temporal affairs? 

I. The Natural Law 

The advocates of an 'ethic of ends' based on the Natural Law 
deduce their moral judgments from their conception of the nature 
of man-in-himself. Such an analysis provides, moreover, an 
understanding of the nature and purposes of society and its 
political agency, the State. The defenders of an 'ethic of inspira- 
tion' rely on their perception of the Word of God in the reverent 
reading of the Bible. Neither group seems to have successfully 
enlightened, much less convinced, the other in the matter of the 
bases of its ethical approach to social questions. 

Admittedly the word 'natural' in the phrase 'the Natural Law* 
occasions confusions. It is frequently mistaken for 'normal', as 
when unpleasant conduct is explained as being 'only natural', 
a manifestation of the limitations and frailty of human nature as 
encountered every day in community life. Again, 'natural' 
becomes confused with 'normal' (meaning average) when 
supposedly proper norms of behaviour are predicated on statistical 
evidence of their usual non-observance. A further ambiguity 
derives from the common acceptation of 'law' as an enactment, a 
decree of some human authority which, being of human creation, 
is subject to modification. In the Ecumenical Community there 
are reservations regarding the Natural Law, quite apart from 
explicit theological objections, reservations resulting from the 
confusion of a principle with a code and from the false supposition 


that the Natural Law is a species of calcified Icgalism 'with fixed 
and specific content'. 1 

Tlie Law of Nature is not a code nor an enactment made by 
man. Fundamentally it is a statement of the facts of human nature 
as such. And the essential statement of the facts of human nature 
as such is this: man is a psycho-physical being, an animal capable 
of rational thought, endowed with an eternal destiny by reason 
of his spiritual nature. Further consideration of human nature 
as such reveals that man is fashioned for association with his 
fellows, 2 in other words, to live in society whose general purposes 
are clear from the needs of man as such (and arc furnished only 
by communal life) and whose attributes, including authority, 
are consequences of its purposes. The facts of human nature as 
such declare that man must act in accordance with his nature if 
he is to achieve his destiny, a necessity resulting from his depen- 
dence on his Creator. The Christian knows, moreover, that 
man cannot achieve his destiny without redemption nor, for 
that matter, conduct himself morally without the Grace of 

The obligation imposed by the Natural Law manifests itself 
in the judgments of conscience which is nothing other than 
human reason operating in the field of behaviour and dictating 
actions to be done because they arc in accord with human nature 
as such or to be shunned because opposed. Basically, the Natural 
Law is the objective order of things which the human intelligence 
can discern and to which it recognizes it must make personal 
actions and social structures conform. To employ a familiar 
example to indicate how an inspection of the nature of an entity 
reveals the law of its proper operations: a razor, once recognized 
as such, is not used to hack through an iron bar. It would be 
unnatural to use it so, just as it is unnatural to keep (or to try to 
keep) a cat in a pond, or, conversely, a fish in a cage. The nature 
of things is permanent. Twice two is four because of the nature 

1 For example by Reinhold Niebuhr in CDS, p. ip. 

1 In Aristotle's familiar phrase, "AvOQQonos qpdoei nofartixbv &ov, 'Man is by nature a 
social being', one destined for commutu'ty living. Politics, I, ii, 9, 


of numbers. Because of the constancy of human nature as such, 
the Natural Law can be described as an objective statement of 
the essential human situation. 

The Natural Law is also a term used to denote the universally 
admitted general principles of moral conduct such as 'oaths are 
to be kept 5 . 1 The fact that such principles are universally acknow- 
ledged does not constitute the Natural Law; it is, rather, an 
indication of a universal capacity of reason to judge some actions 
improper because at variance with human nature as such. Hence 
the phrase, 'an unnatural mother' ascribed to a parent seriously 
neglecting her children, or the condemnation as 'unnatural' of 
confessions extorted by torture or by psychological manipulation 
of the victim. 

It is freely conceded that the human intelligence, while capable 
of arriving at the general moral truths flowing from an under- 
standing of human nature as such, will be less certain and less 
accurate in deducing further conclusions deriving from these 
immediately evident general principles, hence the need of the 
intellectual virtue of prudence in making ethical analyses and 
the role of positive civil legislation to specify and apply the 
principles of the Natural Law. Moreover, every Christian believes 
that the limitations of imperfect human moral knowledge has 
been supplemented and perfected by God's special revelations, 
notably by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that grace is necessary 
to observe the prescriptions of even the Natural Law in its 

1 Thus Richard Hooker, sixteenth-century Anglican divine: The general principles 
[of the Natural Law] are such as it is not easy to find men ignorant of them. Law rational, 
therefore, which men commonly use to call the Law of Nature, meaning thereby the 
Law which human nature knoweth itself in reason universally bound unto, which also 
for that cause may be termed most fitly the Law of Reason; this Law, I say, comprehendeth 
all those things which men by the light of their natural understanding evidently know, or 
at least may know, to be beseeming or unbeseeming, virtuous or vicious, good or evil 
for them to do.' Ecclesiastical Polity, I, viii, 9, as quoted by Alan Richardson and Wolfgang 
Schweitzer (eds.), Biblical Authority for Today, p. 116. Frequently quoted is Gladstone's 
reference to 'the higher ground of natural justice, that justice which binds man to man; 
which is older than Christianity, because it was in the world before Christianity; which 
is broader than Christianity, because it extends to the world beyond Christianity; and 
which underlies Christianity, for Christianity itself appeals to it'. Cited by C. E. Osborne, 
Christian Ideas in Political History, p. 68. 


Such conceptions, it may be noted, were dominant when the 
Common Law of England was born; the consequences of the 
common conviction of a 'Law behind the law' influenced the 
political institutions of the English-speaking world; that heritage 
undoubtedly conditions in greater or lesser degree the viewpoint 
on social ethics of the membership of the World Council of 
Churches in the Anglo-Saxon world. As Pollock and Mainland 
observed in their classical History of English Law, the twelfth- 
century jurists at Westminster 'were penning writs that would 
run in the name of kinglcss comnionwealdis on the other side 
of the Atlantic Ocean'. That such commonwealths arc kingless 
is wholly incidental to the spirit of the Common Law whose 
founders had spurned the prestige of the Corpus Juris Civilis of 
Roman Law with its voluntaristic principle, 'Quod Principi 
placuit legis habet vigorem', 1 to declare in the words of one of 
the first formulators of the new legal system, Henry of Bracton: 
'The King is under God and the law, because the law makes the 
King. There is no King where Will and not Law is the principle 
of his rule.' For, as a later document of the same tradition, the 
American Declaration of Independence, declared, 'the Laws of 
Nature and of Nature's God* judge political r6gimes, men being 
endowed with certain inalienable rights by their Creator. Right 
reason is deemed to be both the instrument and the criterion for 
determining justice in society, 

2. Biblical Insights 

The whole viewpoint of the 'ethic of ends', or the Natural 
Law approach, supposes in men a capacity to apprehend the 
general pattern of correct personal moral existence and of a 
just social organization. The whole viewpoint of the 'ethic 
of inspiration', or the New Reformation Theology approach, 
rejects any contimiity between man's sin-wrecked powers and 
the fulfilment of his ultimate responsibilities, between the puny 
constructions of human endeavour and the transcendent realm 
of the divine, between rational knowledge of present duty and 

1 'The will of the Prince gives law its force.' 


the proper ordering of society on the one hand and the truths 
conveyed through the Word of God on the other. 1 

The two viewpoints express the 'deepest differences' on the 
subject of social philosophy in the ecumenical corrununity. 
Opening the war-time Conference on 'The Life of the Church and 
the Order of Society', Archbishop William Temple, Chairman 
of the World Council of Churches, found the differences of 
crucial importance and opted for the Natural Law as the single 
conceivable basis of social criticism. 2 Delivering the Stone ' 
Lectures of 1948 at Princeton University on 'Recent Trends in 
European Theology', Dr. W. A. Visser 't Hooft, General 
Secretary of the World Council, formally rejected the basis 
proposed by Archbishop Temple, preferring instead the 'ethic 
of inspiration' approach to social questions. 3 Dr. Visser 't Hooft 
is satisfied that the Bible alone furnishes not only an adequate 
ground for apprehending social obligations but supplies as well, 
at least in outline, the content of the principles necessary for 
human conduct, for appraising the proper functioning of society 

1 'It is only by means of the contradiction between two ideas God and man, grace 
and responsibility, holiness and love that we can apprehend the contradictory truth 
that the eternal God enters time, or that the sinful man is declared just. Dialectical 
theology is the mode of thinking which defends this paradoxical character, belonging to 
faith-knowledge, from the non-paradoxical speculation of reason and vindicates it as 
against the other.' Emil Brunner, The Theology of Crisis (London and New York: 
Scribner's Sons, 1929), p. 7, as quoted in Gill, op. tit., p. 58. 

a 'We approach our task as Anglicans, that is, as heirs of the whole richness of Catholic 
tradition and also of the special insights of the Reformation. And here a great choice must 
be made: Do we or do we not follow the Reformers in their rejection of all Natural 
Theology? It comes as a surprise to most British theologians, when they are first introduced 
to continental controversies, to discover that this is the main point of division between. 
Catholics and Protestants: not Eucharistic doctrine, not even Papal supremacy, but the 
possibility or impossibility of Natural Theology. For the Reformers pressed the doctrine 
of the Fall of Man to a point where the human reason is regarded as incapable of appre- 
hending any divine truth. If we adopt that position, there is not much more to be said.' 
Malvern, 1941, pp. 12-13. 

8 'It is often taken for granted that the only possible basis for Christian action in the 
realm of State and society is some form of natural theology. Thus Archbishop Temple 
said . . . that die decision against natural theology leads straight to the complete separation 
of the spheres of Church and State for in that case the Church is concerned wholly and 
solely with the work of grace and it has no right to approve or disapprove of the action 
of the State. But with all due respect to Archbishop Temple's insight we must say that 
this is a false alternative. It is possible to take one's stand on the Bible alone.' The Kingship 
of Christ, p. 140. 


and judging the decisions of the State. The World Council's 
General Secretary concedes that to make the Bible an apt 
instrument of social criticism is a task still to be achieved. 1 

This rejection of the social philosophy of the Natural Law, or 
moral evaluations based on the conclusions of reason, is founded 
on radical theological grounds in an indictment that summarizes 
the objections shared by a majority, probably, of the constituency 
of the "World Council. Acceptance of a rational norm of social 
ethics is a Hmitation of the sovereignty of Christ in Dr. Visser 
5 t Hooft's view: 'for the enthronement of reason means the 
enthronement of man who becomes his own lawgiver'; Natural 
Law ethics is, moreover, 'the law of the old Adam, [it lacks] the 
eschatological perspective which is distinctive of Christian ethics, 
[it] tends to comfortable compromises instead of dynamic 
witness'. 2 

Such an ethical orientation is an evocation of Calvin's teaching 
on the Kingship of Christ with reservations on its implications 
of a theocratic State and rests uniquely on the revelation of God 
in Christ apprehended in a reverent and intelligent reading of the 
Bible. In such a situation the spirit of Christ 'which by nature 
is" a continuous, dynamic event' 3 is imparted to the believer 
enabling him to make practical decisions of obedience to the 
divine Will in the concrete circumstances of daily life. A German 
scholar, Werner Wiesner, writing in an ecumenical symposium, 
stated this ethical foundation as the person of Jesus Christ in an 
essay on 'The Law of Nature and Social Institutions'. 4 The 
result is an ethical attitude rather than a system, the confrontation 

1 'In this respect the Bible is still very largely a closed book. We have only the vaguest 
ideas about its message concerning the abiding realities of social and political life. We 
operate with a few obvious texts or a few general principles but we know next to no tiling 
about the Biblical witness with regard to such basic elements of our common life as 
property, justice, work, soil, money. . . . Just as we need a Biblical theology, so we need 
a Biblical social ethics.' The Kingship of Christ, p. 144. 

a Ibict., p. 141. 

s H. Kraemer in Contributions to a Christian Social Ethic, p, ax. 

* 'The bases of law are not any principles which can be separated from the holiness of 
God, but God's own holy Person. But this appears to us only where it has become flesh 
in Jesus Christ. So that the ultimate authority and criterion of law are not to be derived 
from some consciousness of rights implanted in reason but only from the revelation of 
God in the flesh.' Christian Faith and the Common Life, p. 129. 


of the individual by the expectations of his Lord, personally 
experienced, rather than the availability of a pattern by which 
he may measure approximations to ideal justice. Dr. Hendrik 
Kraemer, then Director of the World Council's Ecumenical 
Institute, emphasized this result and indicated the ground of this 
ethical attitude in his Bossey Conferences on 'The Bible and Social 
Ethics' as nullifying all systems of ethics. 1 

This ethical attitude is capable of waiting patiently, confident 
of a divine directive. 2 It faces the reality of sin and regards civil 
rights as deriving from the action of Christ in history. It would see 
human pride lurking in the protestation that 'all men are created 
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain 
uiialienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the 
pursuit of Happiness'. That such, truths are considered 'self- 
evident' would be judged an indication of man's incorrigible 
capacity for self-deception. Such an ethical attitude invites, to 
be sure, severe strictures from Anglican advocates of the Natural 
Law, as an abandonment of the gift of reason. 3 The reply would 
explain that the Bible is not considered an automatic vending 
machine proffering ready-made solutions to contemporary social 
problems, but that it offers the earnest inquirer a general 

1 'Christian living on the individual plane and on the social plane in the light of the 
dealing and will of God, whose ways and thoughts are always higher than ours, can never 
be stabilized in any historical or theoretical system, the splendid theocratic laws of the 
Old Testament included. There may be systems of philosophical ethics: there can never 
be a system of Christian ethics, at least if it is true to its nature. That would mean to forget 
and deny that God is an active God whose love, holiness and justice transcend all possible 
standards. All legalism and nioralism stand condemned under the judgment of the ever- 
dynamic and ever-new dimension of God's activity.' Ibid., p. 25. 

a In his Annual Report for 1952 the "World Council's General Secretary regretted that 
'our fellowship is not at present giving clear and definite guidance to its members and to 
the world concerning the way out of the present impasse (i.e. the East-West conflict). 
This is of course due to the circumstance that our Churches hve in different worlds and 
have very widely different views on the international situation. Many of these Churches 
are themselves divided on important questions of international affairs. "We should not be 
ashamed if we fail to find common answers and solutions. We must wait until He gives 
us the word to speak.' Lucknow Minutes, p. 74. 

8 'God's "Word is addressed to our reason. It is not given to us to enable us to lay 
reason aside in attempting to solve our scientific, historical, social, political, economic 
and technological problems. Hence we are not to look in the Bible for economic laws, 
practical programmes and constitutions, social policies or even for solutions of our practical 
moral problems.' Alan Richardson in Biblical Authority for Today, p. 119. 


orientation (which admittedly has not yet been sufficiently 
explored for guidance in social problems) rather than a blue-print 
of an ideal economic or political order. 

By common agreement the most striking contemporary 
example of the employment of the Bible as the exclusive source 
of ethical standards and of the application of the doctrine of the 
Kingship of Christ as a criterion for judging social institutions 
is found in an essay of Karl Barth, 'The Christian Community 
and the Civil Community'. 1 The Swiss theologian constructs 
his conclusions by die argument from analogy: he infers the nature 
and functions of the State, for example, from the nature and 
mission of the Church, the terms of human justice from the divine 
movement of justification, the character of civil liberty from the 
spiritual freedom of redeemed individuals. It is an immensely 
interesting essay and would seem to represent a relaxation of 
Barth's rigorous insistence that the divine order is so trans- 
cendental as to have no human parallel. 

The argument, of course, provides a methodology of social 
criticism available only to the Christian and offers no suggestions 
on how die non-believer or pagan is to make moral judgments 
or whence, indeed, issue his civil rights. The role of the citizen 
who happens not to be a Christian has not captured the serious 
attention of the scholars who find the content of social ethics 
exclusively in the Bible. The BarthiaiT position concedes, more- 
over, only a narrow and negative function to the State, one 
principally founded on its obligations to assure freedom of the 
gospel, a curious conclusion since in politics Bardi is a Socialist. 
It occasions statements that seem to confuse realities commonly 
supposed to have different meanings. Thus, during a Central 
Committee discussion on religious persecution in Eastern Europe, 
Dr. Martin Niemoller remarked: '"We should seek religious 
liberty as it is observed elsewhere but let our brethren know that 
they already We religious Hberty because Christ has set them free.' 2 

1 In Against the Stream, pp, I3~5o. Also published separately as Chtistengemeinde iind 
Biirgergetneinde (ZoUikon-ZUrich: Evangelischcr Verlag, 1946) and Cotnmttnautf Chrttlenne 
et Commttnatitd Civile (Geneva: Editions Roulet, 1952), 

8 Chichesler Minutes, p. la. Emphasis in the original. 


Nor does the ethical attitude inculcated by exclusive reliance 
Dii the Bible solve, for example, the problem that vexed Dr. 
Walter Simons, President of Germany's Supreme Court. At 
Stockholm he explained his plight: his Christian, conscience was 
illumined by the biblical injunction of love for one's enemies 
but the State had posted him 'to sit in judgment on crimes 
committed by my brethren and to mete out punishment on them'. 1 

The differences of the two ethical approaches are indeed deep. 


It was objected at a plenary session of the First Assembly of 
the World Council of Churches that the paragraphs on the 
Responsible Society contained in the Report of the Section on 
Social Questions, while undoubtedly affirmations of unim- 
pugnable wisdom, were disconcertingly indefinite both as to the 
mechanisms for the social control of economic activities implied 
and the concrete action, asserted as incumbent on the individual 
Christian, envisaged. The short and inconclusive discussion 
touched the problem of the scope of social criticism, the range 
and level of judgment the "World Council should exercise in its 
comments on economic life and political trends, and the character 
of the guidance which it could reasonably be expected to furnish 
its constituency. 

A veteran of the Ecumenical Movement, Pasteur Paul Conord, 
had earlier raised the question when forwarding his requested 
criticism on the draft chapter diagnosing contemporary social ills 
for the Amsterdam background volume. Given the dominance 
of technics in modern society, he asked, should the Church 
(a) decide if technological developments are good or bad in 
tnemselves, 2 (b) promulgate detailed regulations governing, for 
example, the hours and conditions of labour, trade-quotas and 
the limitation of certain industries, or (c) limit itself to affirming 
general principles leaving to interested parties the job of drawing 

1 Stockholm, pp. 290-1. 

8 'If we decide that technics are bad in themselves,' remarked Pasteur Conord, 'then it's 
'back to Gandhi" for us.' Archives. 


concrete conclusions? Pasteur Conord held that ecclesiastics 
had no competence to pronounce on precise problems requiring 
teclimcal knowledge; lie believed that the policy of affirming 
general principles which would tend to heighten the sense of 
personal responsibility to God and one's fellows might seem 
insufficient but it was, in his opinion, the only realistic approach. 

But the policy of asserting general principles is not universally 
accepted in "World Council circles, as was shown by the difference 
of opinion between Dr. Patijn and Professor Bennett when they 
came to discuss the chapter 'The Strategy of the Church' in the 
same volume. The Dutch Government official was well aware 
that *thc Church's task vis-a-vis the community in its social and 
political life is an indirect one'. He believed, however, that the 
Church's responsibility required that 'the full weight of prophetic 
judgment [be] thrown into the balance at the heart of the real 
difficulties and at the right moment, with the greatest possible 
knowledge of the facts'. 1 Dr. Patijn recognized the economic 
disorder of our society as 'a structural one' and believed that the 
Church should not default on its responsibility of giving guidance 
because of the teclimcal issues involved 'since in the most impor- 
tant institutional problems of our day ethical issues arc interwoven 
with the technical aspect'. Stands could be taken on burning, 
concrete, living problems, he was convinced, if there was 
collaboration and interaction in the institutional Church, the 
clergy contributing 'the light of revelation, the appeal to faith 
and spiritual courage, the laymen their expcrtncss and open- 
mindedncss to fact'. 

This impatience with abstract solutions led Professor Bennett 
(whose teaching had been cited by Patijn) to object that less than 
justice had been accorded to the place of proximate norms or 
'middle axioms in the programme of the criticism of social 
questions by the churches. Middle axioms (the term came into 
use at the time of the Oxford Conference) are 'those goals for 

1 'It is useless ... to proclaim theories about the true natural order for economic or inter- 
national life since no one in red difficulty will get help from mere abstractions, . . . The 
social problem is not capable of solution in. abstract terms but is involved in the conditions 
of living of our present society.' CDS, pp. ifii, 165, 


society which are more specific than universal Christian principles 
and. less specific than concrete institutions or programmes of 
action', Professor Bennett explained. As examples he cited two 
convictions: that the Church should seek to overcome involuntary 
racial segregation, and that it should seek the development of an 
organized world community to overcome the anarchy of inter- 
national life. 1 How these objectives would be achieved, what 
institutions would be the instruments of the desired change, 
would be left to technical experts as being beyond the mandate 
and, presumably, the competence of the churches. 

The policy of middle axioms would not seem to satisfy Dr. 
Patijn's demand, for practical ethical guidance. It is all very well, 
he would say, 2 to declare that families should have habitations 
compatible with human dignity, but does justice authorize, in the 
circumstances of the post-war world, governmental control of 
building materials to prevent the construction of luxury homes? 
What is the ethical answer to a proposal of State subsidy for 
low-rental housing for the economically disadvantaged? Since 
overcoming involuntary racial segregation is a moral objective, 
are not the means to be employed of ethical significance sufficient 
to claim, the attention of the churches? Surely revolution to 
attain such a goal would be judged ethically reprehensible. 
Would sanctions against discrimination in employment practices, 
on the other hand, be judged ethically good? Are there, in fact, 
middle axioms indicating the ethical propriety of compulsion 
and the scope of the State? To set down an obligation of working 
for the development of an organized world community as a 
proximate norm of Christian judgment is plainly inadequate; 
such a declaration blandly ignores the actually existing United 
Nations and unhelpfully withholds an explicit answer to the 
practical qtiestion of the proper ethical attitude Christians should 
adopt towards that concrete organization. As a matter of fact, 
the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches was 

1 Ibid., p. 159. 

2 Obviously I am. continuing the debate based on a footnote explanation of Professor 
Bennett and am thus suggesting Dr. Patijn's rebuttal, interpreting his position as disclosed 
in the volume and in meetings of World Council commissions on, Social Questions, 


later, by its 1950 Resolution on Korea, to endorse not merely 
the United Nations as an institution but the use of arms under 
UN auspices to repress aggression. 

But Dr. Patijn has another objection to the promulgation of 
general principles as the proper expression of the policy of the 
churches in judging social questions. It is an objection widely 
held in the Ecumenical Community and influences the World 
Council's attitude on economic and political institutions. Whence 
come these general principles to be proclaimed? he asked. From 
human wisdom, from the natural law, from theological construc- 
tions like the orders of creation and corporate groups, from a 
melange of liberal philosophy and the unacknowledged intrusion 
of national aspirations and class interests? Under the guise of 
general principles the pretensions of human reason obscure the 
light of revealed truth, he objected, and biblical counsel, dis- 
associated from its concrete significance expressed in concrete 
circumstances, is transformed into a dead language using the 
adages of worldly wisdom. The objection raises anew the question 
of an 'ethic of inspiration' or an 'ethic of ends'. 

The quasi-tactical question of the proper level of the churches' 
judgments, then, leads back to the unsettled question of the 
sources of a social philosophy or even the possibility of one. 
'To know what tasks the State has to perform, we have to know 
what justice is, the relation between the State and law, etc.,' 
remarked Professor Jacques Ellul during the discussions of 
Commission III in preparation for the First Assembly. Such 
knowledge was not to be achieved by a study of human nature 
and its exigencies, he was sure. 1 This assertion that the norms of 
justice, the roots of law, the goals of society and the function of 
the State are hidden from sin-darkened human reason and 
disclosed only to the grace-aided searcher of the scriptures had 
been preceded by a curt and somewhat cryptic remark of another 

1 'I do not see how we can base ethics on the order of creation because creation has been 
perverted by the Fall, bringing total separation of man from God and condemning him 
to death. I think we can conceive of a Christian ethics based on a more or less stable law 
founded on the discernment of spirits in the light of the march of the world towards the 
Kingdom of God.' Archives. 


participant in the discussion. 'The Church,' observed Dr. J. H. 
Oldham, 'should not pronounce on matters that belong to the 
sphere of rational judgment,' answering a request that his chapter 
on the effects of technics should include some practical suggestions 
on their social control. 

Another point of view within the Ecumenical Community, 
one more common in Anglo-Saxon countries, was expressed 
by an American collaborator, for whom justice is 'written into 
the structure of the world' whose nature and purpose, seriously 
examined, indicates the existence of a moral order binding on all 
men. Professor Walter Horton, who spent a year at the World 
Council's Secretariat assisting in the study preparations for the 
Amsterdam Assembly, called attention to a pronouncement of 
several churches in the United States which based its proposals 
for peace and international order on the Natural Law approach. 1 
Such a viewpoint assumes that institutional mechanisms to 
ameliorate contemporary social disorders can and should be 
constructed or modified (and certainly judged) in the light of the 
most reasoned understanding of the needs of the commonwealth, 
institutions which will be imperfect as all human things are 
imperfect, and undoubtedly tentative and experimental, given 
the complexity and gravity of the difficulties to be overcome. 

These differences of opinion on the scope of social criticism, it 
must be remembered, are debated by participants in the ecumen- 
ical dialogue who are convinced of the social responsibility of 
the churches. Anyone conceiving of religion as an escape-hatch 
from, temporal involvement into an after-world of untroubled 
salvation would scarcely be interested in the Ecumenical Move- 
ment; in any case, such a person, if he found himself at Amsterdam 

1 'The Delaware (1942) Report on the Basis of a Just and Durable Peace begins with a 
reference to a moral law which is "fundamental and eternal". This order of law is a part 
of God's design which is not revoked or destroyed by the higher order of Grace. We are 
saved by Grace but not in defiance of law.' Archives. In the formulation of this descrip- 
tion of a just international order, sponsored by the Federal Council of Churches, Mr. John 
Foster Dulles played a leading role as both a prominent Presbyterian layman and an 
eminent jurist. The political philosophy of the document is familiar in a nation, which 
explained its Declaration of Independence as being a logical conclusion of 'the Laws of 
Nature and of Nature's God". 


in 1948 or at Evanston in 1954 as a delegate to the Assembly, 
would presumably not have elected the Section concerned with 
cultural, economic and political problems as the centre of his 
activity. The World Council, moreover, owes its existence in 
part to a reaction against the individualism and isolationism that 
characterized an earlier viewpoint of its member churches. The 
problem is admittedly one awaiting further thought and, perhaps, 
experimentation. The answers involve inevitable considerations 
of the social function of the churches and of the World Council 
of Churches. For, as the First Assembly asserted, one of the 
pressing needs of the times is 'to find ways of realizing personal 
responsibility for collective action in the large aggregations of 
power in modern society'. It is 'a task', the Report conceded, 
'which has not yet been undertaken seriously'. 1 


The World Council of Churches is permanently mindful of 
the importance of a common, coherent basis for its social pro- 
nouncements. Stimulating an ecumenical dialogue that would 
engender a consensus on the fundamental criteria of social 
criticism has been a contmuing responsibility of the Study 
Department. Since all the member churches arc agreed that the 
Bible contains God's message to men, the Sacred Scriptures 
have served as the starting-point and centre of this study. Its 
results have been so far inconclusive. 

I. The Appeal to the Bible 

As early as 1945 an inquiry on the 'Biblical Authority for the 
Church's Social and Political Message Today' was gotten under 
way. Originally planned to result in a volume providing a 
common platform for the judgments on economic institutions 
and international affairs to be made by the Amsterdam Assembly, 
the project proved more knotty than the Provisional Committee 

1 Amsterdam, p. 75, 


(which, had ordered the symposium) suspected. The first con- 
ference of biblical scholars gathered in London in mid-August 
1946, to examine the basic questions involved in the inquiry. 
The conflict between the advocates of the Natural Law and the 
defenders of 'The Bible alone' viewpoint was clear. The subse- 
quent conference, convened at Bossey in early January 1947, 
devoted itself to discovering some definite hermeneutical 
principles by which to pass from the Bible's message to the social 
and political questions of the day. 

A new difference appeared at this second meeting when Karl 
Barth and Anders Nygren encountered one another: the Swiss 
and Swedish theologians personified the Reformed and Lutheran 
traditions and served as spokesmen respectively for the doctrine 
of the Lordship of Christ and that of the Two Realms. The 
differences derived from something profoundly deeper than 
confessional loyalties; the argument was by no means an academic 
controversy over theological terms. The Barthian view proclaims 
Christ's sovereignty over all the area of human activities; it 
spurns all distinctions between ethics and dogmatics; it recognizes 
a single standard for the moral evaluation of social institutions 
as well as of individual behaviour the Gospel; it knows only 
one norm of moral truth God's Word in Christ. Social and 
political life also must be made to manifest, therefore, their 
subjection to Christ's Lordship as the supreme and single rule of 
goodness, albeit the Christian will be always mindful of die tran- 
sitory nature of this world and of its incorrigible opposition 
to its true Lord Whose power, now hidden, will be revealed in 
glory at His triumphal return. For Nygren, too, as a Christian 
theologian, this present world is under God's domination but 
He rules it by His Law; Christ's Kingdom, the realm of the 
Gospel, belongs to the Age that is to come. Social and political 
life, according to this Lutheran view, is controlled by God's 
creative and sustaining activity in the interval between the 
First and the Final Advent of Christ. They are ruled by 
the Creator's ordinances among which must be listed human 
laws and the authority of the State; the secular realm is 


not to be measured by the exalted demands of the Gospel; 
it has its day and, by God's permission and for His purposes, 
a relative autonomy until Christ's return brings in the New 
Age. 1 

Thus the Bossey Conference raised the question of the situs of 
the biblical basis of the Church's Social and Political Message 
Today. Was it to be found in the Gospel alone or partly in the 
Law and partly in the Gospel? Moreover the question, 'What is 
the Kingdom of God?' that had troubled Stockholm arose again, 
this time posed in rigorously theological terms. Does the King- 
dom of Christ already exist? Can it be achieved in larger measure 
by social institutions submitting to the sovereignty of their Lord? 
Or is the Kingdom of God a condition to be disclosed in the 
New Age subsequent to Christ's return in glory? Confessional 
teachings are obviously reflected in differing interpretations of the 
Bible. 2 The dogmatic considerations that dominated the Bossey 
Conference ultimately concerned differing conceptions of the 
biblical teaching on the Last Tilings, on the relations of this world 
to the next, their continuity or opposition, the interpenetration 
of their common divine authority, the proper moral attitude 
of the Christian whose creed includes a belief in Christ's 
return. Your ethics, it was evident, did indeed depend on your 

x This Lutheran ethic emphasized, especially in the 1930*8, a doctrine of Ordnungen, 
particular forms of social organization conceived to possess a certain intrinsic moral 
authority, juxtaposed to that of the Bible, because God employs them for His creative 
and preserving activity in this present world. These 'social orders', having been given a 
limited autonomy, serve as subordinate sources of moral 'values', as normative indications 
of moral rectitude. They include the nation, the family, marriage, the State, the economic 
system, even the trade union, When the concept was extended to include die race, 
the indigenous culture of a Volk, its collective destiny, the peculiar genius of its legal 
system, it is evident how readily this philosophy lent itself to the manipulations of 
the National Socialist propagandists with the result that the religion of the 'German 
Christians' was fundamentally a worship of the sum-total of the racial characteristics of 
the Volk. 

a A commentator on the Bossey Conference concluded: '(a) If we are dealing with the 
social and political message of the Bible, dogmatic considerations cannot be excluded; 
(5) every participant in ecumenical discussions and indeed every ordinary reader of the 
Bible brings with him certain presuppositions which have made possible for him. an 

understanding of the Bible The conclusion is evident that we understand the Bible 

in different ways and that, therefore, to proceed to a common interpretation of the Bible 
is far from, easy.' "Wolfgang Schweitzer, 'The Bible and the Church's Message to the 
"World", BR n (Winter 1950), 2, p. 128. v 


eschatology. 1 The editor of the Report on the two conferences 
noted that 'five different views were expressed concerning the 
basis of Christian ethics'; he acknowledged that meagre results 
were achieved. 2 No mention was made of the Bible study 
project during the Amsterdam debates. 

A subsequent gathering of twenty theologians fromten denomina- 
tions of eight nations, meeting at Wadham College, Oxford, June 
28-July 6, 1949, resulted in a symposium that in title fulfilled the 
1946 mandate. 3 Theproblem of discovering a coherent social philo- 
sophy or theology, based 011 the Bible, admittedly still remained. 4 
The inquiry was continued at a conference on 'The Biblical Doc- 
trine of Law and Justice' sponsored by the World Council Study 
Department and held at Treysa, Germany, in early August 1950. 

The 'Common Convictions', subscribed to by this group of 
thirty scholars, accepted the Bible as the single source of moral 
truth and intransigently asserted the impossibility of separating 
even the concept of human justice from the process of Redemp- 
tion whereby man's essential spiritual condition and communion 
with his Creator was determined: 

Our knowledge of the nature, the origin, the validity and. the 
function of human justice arises from our faith in the Gospel of 
Jesus Christ. Therefore a right understanding of human justice is 
possible only where the righteousness of God revealed in Jesus 
Christ is accepted by man in faith. 5 

1 As the World Council's General Secretary asserted, lecturing on 'Recent European 
Theology' at Princeton University: 'We can truthfully say to each other: "Tell me what 
your eschatology is and I will tell you what your attitude is in relation to Church, state 
and society." prom the first beginnings of the modem Ecumenical Movement until our 
own day this is the underlying theme to which we are forced back again and again,' 
W. A. Visser 't Hooft, The Kingship of Christ, p. 83. 

z From the Bible to the Modern World, p. 100. 'There was at the end of the Conference 
as at the beginninig considerable divergence between the participants. The authority of 
the Bible was variously defined and the method of applying the Bible to social and 
political questions (directly, indirectly, etc.) was variously conceived. This is a problem 
which must be reckoned with in ecumenical discussions and messages.' Ibid , p. 38. 

3 Biblical Authority for Today, edited by Alan Richardson and Wolfgang Schweitzer. 

* For example, the conclusion: 'It is agreed that in applying the biblical message to our 
day, interpreters diverge because of differing doctrinal and ecclesiastical traditions, differing 
ethical, political and cultural outlooks, differing geographical and sociological situations, 
differing temperaments and gifts.' Ibid., p. 343. 

5 The Treysa Conference, p. 47. 


There were, in addition, two sets of 'differing convictions' 
framed, each conditioned by either the doctrine of the Two 
Realms or that of the Kingdom of Christ, thus continuing, in 
effect, the debate opened at Bossey by Anders Nygren and 
Karl Barth. 1 

The inquiry on the social relevance of the Bible and its use in 
appraising concrete issues of justice among men and nations is 
one that cannot indefinitely be filed away as incomplete. No mere 
subject for a common-room causerie among theologians and 
scripture scholars, it is immediately connected with the desire, 
frequently expressed at ecumenical gatherings, for a coherent, 
commonly accepted foundation a philosophy, if you will on 
which to base World Council pronouncements on economic and 
political questions. There are, to be sure, few in the World 
Council constituency who regard the Bible as a superior sort of 
Koran, listing the detailed prescriptions for a divinely ordered 
temporal theocracy or as a convenient manual supplying ready 
answers to complicated problems of equitable trade relations 
between nations. Such fundamentalism is associated rather with 
the small but determined groups notably the International 
Council of Christian Churches which, attack the World Council 
for its alleged slighting of biblical truth. 2 The demand, however, 
voiced continually in ecumenical assemblies for a specifically 
Christian view of the State, of armed service in time of war, of 
the development of economically backward countries, still awaits 
clearer indication of the concrete source and scope of the Christian 
view of such temporal topics, A plenary meeting at Evans ton, 
for example, was furnished with a justification of contemporary 
patterns of racial segregation in South Africa, not as applications 
of biblical insights but of biblical ordinances. 

1 Is it an indication of 'non-theological factors' in ecumenical discourse that in a con- 
ference held in Germany the majority opinion reflected a Lutheran emphasis? 

2 Thus, the Rev. Carl Mclntyre, President of the International Council: 'We have a 
general thesis. This thesis is that the Bible teaches private enterprise and the capitalistic 
system, not as a by-product or as some side-line but as the very foundation structure of 
society itself in which men are to live and render an account of themselves to God.' The 
Rise of the Tyrant, p, xiii. 


2. Law between Nations 

A discussion on the nature of human justice and the foundations 
of law in effect, a consideration of the norm of social morality 
was occasioned by another Bossey Conference with a substantially 
different context: an examination of the basis of international 
order, strained to the breaking-point by East-West tension and 
seriously troubled by wholesale violations of human rights 
including religious persecution. The same differences of opinion 
on the source of moral knowledge and the criteria of moral 
appraisals are to be noted: (a) a consistently Christological ethic, 
measuring all things uniquely by the Person and Message of 
Jesus, (6) the biblical doctrine of the Orders of Creation within 
which human law has its place and by whose revealed content it 
must be judged, and (c) the Natural Law approach, wherein 
reason discovers in the structure of created things the rules of 
their proper functioning. 

The Conference, which addressed itself to the general topic 
'The Church and International Law', owed its convening to a 
proposal made by Bishop Eivind Berggrav, Primate of Norway's 
Lutheran Church, at the 1949 meeting of the World Council's 
Central Committee. The worsening of the prospects for peace, 
the plight of the veto-stalled United Nations, the violations of 
religious freedom especially in Eastern Europe, suggested to this 
resolute foe of the Nazi tyranny the necessity of a profound study 
of the significance of law in international affairs. The question 
had been raised earlier in ecumenical circles, notably by Baron 
van Asbeck, Professor of International Law at the University of 
Leyden, in an essay contributed to the background volume for 
the Amsterdam Assembly. 1 The Conference, composed of twenty 
experts, lawyers, men engaged in political affairs, and theologians, 
spent a week at Bossey in mid-April 1950, meeting under the 
joint sponsorship of the Commission of the Churches for Inter- 
national Affairs, the World Council's Study Department and the 

1 'The Church must proclaim that the state is not an end in itself, nor does it establish 
its own law, but it is God's instrument for the establishment and maintenance of a legal 
order in this world, a legal order both for national and for international life. 1 The Church and 
the International Disorder, p. 69. 


Ecumenical Institute. The Central Committee had directed a 
study of the following subjects: '(a) The present position as 
regards the investigation of the problem of Natural Law and its 
significance for international affairs today. (>) The Christian 
understanding of law and justice, (c) The relation in which the 
Christian view of law stands to the view based on the Natural 
Law and the connections existing between them.' 1 

The Committee, unhappily for our present purposes, chose to 
broaden the scope of its discussion. Its Report was edited under 
the following heads: 

I. The responsibility of the Church in regard to international 

II. Ways to the Christian understanding of international law: 

(a) Law and justice in general, including the question of Natural 

(6) International law in general; 

(c) International law and State sovereignty; 

(d) International law and man's person. 
III. The task of the Church: 

(a) Responsibility and guilt of the Church; 
(6) Permanent essentials; 
(c) Present duties. 2 

Despite the distinguished presence of Dr. Max Huber, former 
President of the Hague Court of International Justice, the Con- 
ference may have felt a lack of enthusiasm for any concentration 
on the Natural Law. Apart from an English disciple of Arnold 
Toynbee and a New Zealander who, judging from the official 
Minutes,, was silent during the discussions, the participants were 
all from the Continent (about equally divided between the 
Lutheran and the Reformed traditions), 8 a provenance which 
could not be expected to acquaint them with the Common Law 
tradition of the British Commonwealth and the United States, 
a legal system of Natural Law origin. 

1 Chichester Minutes, p. 86. a Report to the Central Committee. Archives, p. 2. 
3 One participant Dr. E. J. Colombos listed himself as a member of both the 
Orthodox Church and the Church of England. 


The findings of the Conference on a wide range of topics in the 
field of international relations have no appositeness for our present 
inquiry. The summary treatment of the essential subject assigned 
for study by the Central Committee was suggested by the 
rapporteur as indicating the need of further study which might 
reconcile conflicting dogmatic positions. 1 The discussion of the 
Report by the Central Committee at its Toronto meeting was 
perfunctory, confused and certainly inconclusive. The Evanston 
Assembly's Section on International Affairs was confronted 
anew with the question when it considered the continuing prob- 
lem of the 'common foundation of moral principles' whose 
absence was said to inhibit the growth of a genuine world 
community. Still unresolved in World Council discussions are 
questions regarding the roots of law governing relations between 
men and the norms of justice guiding their conduct. 


An environment in which a Christian can live out the implica- 
tions of bis religion fruitfully: such, in summary, is the social 
order envisaged by the World Council of Churches and under 
study in its continuing inquiry on 'The Responsible Society'. 

This concept, which serves as 'a criterion by which we judge 
all existing social orders and at the same time a standard to guide 
us in the specific choices we have to make', was first formulated 
at the Amsterdam Assembly of the World Council in words 
incorporated verbatim into a Report of the Second Assembly: 

A responsible society is one where freedom is the freedom of men 
who acknowledge responsibility to justice and public order and 
where those who hold political authority or economic power are 

1 'The diversity of views on the theological foundation of law, as it emerged in the 
discussion of this question, need not give rise to disquiet. Rather, we should note with 
gratitude that consciousness of the Church's responsibility in the field of law and theo- 
logical reflection on the question of law, have everywhere taken on a new lease of life 

The diversity of views prevailing on important questions of the foundations of law means 
that we must go into the matter further ' H. H. "Walz (ed.), 'The Church and Inter- 
national Law: Covering Memorandum to the Central Committee', May 30, 1950, 
unpublished. Archives, p. 6. 


responsible for its exercise to God. and to the people whose welfare 
is affected, by it. 1 

The core of such a concept is the Christian notion of man. 

The Amsterdam argument suggests the following summary: 
Man, as God's free creature, has an intrinsic dignity, forbidding 
him to be used as a means to any other purpose, political or 
economic, and an essential responsibility, reposing 011 his duties 
to God and his neighbour and involving the work of salvation. 
The kind of society, therefore, properly corresponding to the 
responsible nature of man must have a government subject to 
popular control, criticism and, if necessary, peaceful change; its 
economic institutions must be subject to the requirements of 
justice and yield equal opportunities; its centres of power must 
be subject to law and tradition and should be widely distributed 
through the entire community. Freedom of conscience and 
religious practice, freedom of personal participation in com- 
munity decisions and freedom of access to truth and the propaga- 
tion of individual opinions are necessary characteristics and 

The idea of a Responsible Society, the Second Assembly 
stressed, should be realized in small groups as well as in large. 
The family was the primary instance of the first type mentioned 
and the disruption of family life was deplored. 2 The existence 
of other communities was indicated: die Christian congregation, 
people co-operating in the same work or the same factory, youth 
and, in some parts of the world, the village community or tribal 
groups. ,It was not clear whether membership in such groups 

1 Amsterdam, p. 77 and Evanston, p. 113. The author of the paragraph was Sir Walter 
Moberly, a distinguished English educator. 

a The Index of the source-book prepared as background for the World Council's 
inquiry on the Responsible Society has no entry under the word 'family', indicating that 
the subject has not so far been of immediate concern in ecumenical encounters. It is 
difficult, therefore, to know the place accorded the family, its nature, origin and function 
in ecumenical thought. A passing reference* from, a Study Conference on the Church 
and the Problem of Social Order, held at Regensdorf in March 1933 under the auspices 
of the Universal Christian Council of Life and Work, states that 'the institutions of the 
family and the Church [are] directly ordained of God'. John W. Turnbull (ed.), 
Ecumenical Documents on Church and Society, p. 44.. 


was considered optional, the result of a personal decision (such as 
joining a sports club) or whether it was a consequence of an 
impulse implanted in human nature. The bonds of cohesion of 
such subordinate groupings, if they are other than self-interest, 
were not explained. 

What was suggested, however, was the function or at least 
the value of such smaller forms of community as are found (to use 
examples from the Amsterdam Report) 'in local government, 
within industrial organizations, including trade unions, through 
the development of public corporations and through voluntary 
associations'. Such groupings serve as a counterbalance to the 
State in cultural, political and economic fields and in fostering 
the growth of the Responsible Society. 1 

It will be profitable to examine more closely some aspects of 
this concept of die Responsible Society. 

i. The State 

None but the most egregious romantic, however, could 
believe that the fundamental decisions dictated in the interests of 
economic stability in the post-war world could be made by any 
other than the political authority of the different nations. Merely 
to review some of the measures adopted to get production under 
way after the economic dislocations of the war or to facilitate the 
transition to a peace-time economy evokes the fact of the State 
and its crucial role in an industrial society where the principle 
of the division of labour imports the destruction of the economic 
self-sufficiency of family units. Currency stabilization, credit 
controls, export subsidies, agricultural marketing plans, Govern- 
ment loans, tax concessions, tariff adjustments were employed 
in greater or lesser degree in every country. Legislation and State 
subvention were required to expand educational opportunities, 
including training the unemployed in new skills. Governments 
were obliged to intervene and codify new patterns of industrial 
relations for the protection of the public interest. 

1 'By such means it is possible to prevent an undue centralisation of power in modern 
technically organised communities and thus escape the perils of tyranny while avoiding 
the dangers of anarchy.' Amsterdam, p. 77. 


The most striking instance of the possibility of voluntary action 
on. a large scale in modern history was the success of private 
religious organizations, the World Council of Churches promi- 
nent among them, in finding homes and jobs across the seas for 
Europe's Displaced Persons but, here again, the very size of the 
refugee problem and the large sums required to collect, catalogue, 
care for and ultimately transport some of Europe's homeless 
called for action by interested Governments. Any serious con- 
sideration of economic and political institutions in the modern 
world involves a consideration of the nature and the function 
of the State. 

On this subject unhappily there is a lack of consensus of 
opinion in the Ecumenical Community, the diversity of view 
being founded not merely on universal human differences of 
political preference, the conservative temperament eternally 
confronting the instinctive liberal (as illustrated in Anglo-Saxon 
politics), but resulting rather from conflicting theological con- 
ceptions of God's dealings with men. 1 Theological literature in 
England and the United States reveals small interest and scantier 
worry on the problem of the nature of the State. Despite dis- 
appointing evidences of the growth of reactionary social ideas 
in the American Protestant community as reported in the 
pre-Evanston Survey, religious groups in the United States (and 
in England) almost universally conceive of the State as a natural 
and necessary political instrument to protect and advance the 
temporal peace and prosperity of society. No hesitation is felt 
on theological grounds in conceding a positive function to the 
State; 'to promote the general welfare', in the words of the United 
States' Constitution. Continental theology, on the other hand, 

1 'When we turn to Continental Protestantism and inquire into its conception of the 
State, at first sight such a question seems meaningless. The wealth and variety of the 
conceptions of the State within all the Churches and Christian bodies which bear the name 
"Protestant" is so varied and so confusing that it is impossible to give an adequate answer 
to this question. These conceptions ring all the changes that can possibly be imagined on 
the idea of the State; they range from the idealist's depreciation of the State or the 
anarchist's absolute denial, up to the most extreme form of the conservative deification 
of the State; yet each in turn justifies his point of view by appealing to the principles of 
Protestantism.' Nils Ehrenstrom, Christian Faith and the Modem State, p. 98. See also 
Adolf Keller's Church and State on the European Continent, 


with its more pessimistic view of human nature generally con- 
ceives of the State in negative terms as a dike against anarchy, 
as an instrument to save man from the socially disruptive effects 
of his own selfishness, as the essentially coercive co-ordinator 
whereby a tolerable existence of sinful man in a sinful world is 
made possible. This negative view of the State has been height- 
ened by the theological revival in recent times calling fof a return 
to the insights of the Reformation; its influence in World Council 
circles has certainly echoed an Augustinian accent, trailing 
memories of the great African thinker's description of the State 
as a magnum latrodnium. 1 

In the judgment of the sometime Director of the World 
Council's Study Department, 'the theological argument which 
regards the State mainly as a protection against social chaos and 
the fear of anarchy has been a large factor in the tendency to 
interpret the ordering function of the State in terms of the social 
and economic status quo ? a verdict that could only be adequately 
appraised by a census of the political positions adopted by the 
partisans of such a theological emphasis. Karl Barth, for example, 
displays no uneasiness over the radical transformations of 
society in East Europe. Generally speaking, it is obvious 
that the theological outlook which condemns all human aspira- 
tions, activities and organizations as spiritually insignificant 
cannot be expected to concern itself very seriously with 
attempts to ameliorate by means of economic and political 

1 Thus, Emil Brunner: 'That the Christian affirms the necessity for the State is a correlate 
of his knowledge of Original Sin ' Der Staat ah Problem der Kirche, p. 12. Again, "The 
existence of the State is justified solely and entirely by the fact of sin; that is, the State is a 
means of counteracting the destructive influence of sm upon life and society, by means of 
coercion, in order that it may provide the basis for a life which is at least in some measure 
human.' Die Kirche und das Staatsproblem, p. 12. And Max Huber, distinguished jurist 
and layman: 'Every State represents human sin on the large scale; in history, in the growth 
of every State, die most brutal, anti-divine forces have taken a share to an extent unheard 
of in individual life save in that of some prominent criminals. In the State we human 
beings see our sin magnified a thousand times. The State is the product of collective sin.' 
Staatenpolitik und Evangelism, p. II. Quoted in Ehrenstrom, op tit., p. 193. During the 
Sectional meeting at Evanston, the Secretary's Minutes reveal, a delegate from Canada 
insisted that the nature of the State must be discussed by the Drafting Committee. His 
own views were clear from his reference to the State as 'a monster'. 

2 Ehrenstrom, op. cit., p. 219. 


institutions the social disorder which it regards as inevitable and 

The World Council's Second Assembly repeated the conviction 
of previous ecumenical meetings that no one form of government 
has a universal claim on Christians; it reaffirmed the declaration that 
the State is not the source of social justice, but seemingly was newly 
prepared to accord the State a positive function when it declared 
that the government 'must be the guardian [of social justice], 
ready if necessary to accept responsibility to counteract depression 
or inflation and to relieve the impact of unemployment, industrial 
injury, low wages, and unfavourable working conditions, sickness, 
and old age'. Alongside the action of the State there was assigned 
to 'the non-governmental sectors in economic life . . . employers 
and employees in all their varied organizations' the task of being 
'the guardian of responsible private action in society'. 1 

The distinction of function suggests a growing consciousness in 
World Council circles that the State is not coextensive with 
society, an awareness hinted in a phrase of the memorandum 
prepared for die Evanston Section on Social Questions. Noting 
that 'there is no single criterion by which we can determine 
exactly how far the State should go in extending its functions in 
the economic sphere', the document observed in passing that the 
government is 'a trustee for the society as a whole'. 2 Has society 
as a whole responsibilities for the social order, particularly in the 
economic sphere, other than those within die jurisdiction of the 
State? The question has not yet been explicitly raised in discus- 
sions on the Responsible Society but is certainly implicit in the 
goals indicated for the Responsible Society. 3 

1 Evanston, p. 116. a ER vi (October 1953), I, p. 83. 

8 Professor "William Banning asserted in a paper entitled 'The Changes in Society and 
State and the Church's Call for a Responsible Society', prepared by the Commission of 
Social Affairs of the Dutch Ecumenical Council and made available by the World 
Council's Study Department- 'Any campaign for a responsible society must include the 
proper recompense for work, social security, the combating of unemployment, satisfactory 
human relations within the individual business, the removal of mistrust in industrial 
enterprises, the call of responsibility in and for work and labour and an active cultural 
policy' (p. 7). Many of these objectives are beyond the competence of the State, some 
fall obviously within the jurisdiction of other 'forms of association'. How, for example, 
can the State 'remove mistrust in industrial relations' or assure the "intelligent use of leisure 


2. Property 

An even greater imprecision than is found in World Council 
discussions on the nature and functions of the State occurs in the 
summary treatment of the place of property, both as a moral right 
and a social reality, in a more just social order. Advocates of 
socialization were reminded in a Report of the First Assembly 
that property is not the root cause of human evil, the defenders 
of the existing property system were warned that ownership is 
not an unconditioned right and the Church, it was explained, 
cannot resolve the debate between the two contestants. This 
almost Olympian attitude is particularly disappointing since it 
concerns a subject which the Oxford Conference of 1937, 
Amsterdam's predecessor as the ecumenical encounter considering 
social questions, had declared to be of practical importance. 1 
Unhappily the question has not appeared on the agenda of 
subsequent World Council meetings nor do the Minutes of the 
Sections on Social Questions at Amsterdam or Evanston reveal 
any consideration of the topic, much less debate on it. The 
omission is more regrettable in the light of Oxford's admission 
that the question was not merely a fruitful subject for study by 
the Ecumenical Community but a topic that had been neglected. 

Amsterdam's Section III addressed itself to the depersonalizing 
effects of a society dominated by technics. This type of society, 
it was indicated, is characterized by huge concentrations of 
economic and political power against which the individual is 

time'? The questions reveal what a fruitful concept is that of the Responsible Society, 
how it provokes discussion (and, conceivably, stimulates personal initiative) in working 
out relative fields of responsibility in a Responsible Society. Where, to raise a topic 
not yet considered by the World Council, rests the primary responsibility in the area of 
culture and, to be more precise, in the matter of education? Would the Evanston Assembly 
endorse, as satisfying the role of the State in a Christianly-orientated society, the following 
judgment: 'It is the government's responsibility in a free society to create an environment 
in which individual enterprise can work constructively to serve the ends of economic 
progress'? The definition of jurisdiction is from President Eisenhower's 1954 Economic 
Message to Congress. 

1 'This is a sphere in which Christian teaching on ends and principles in relation to 
economic life could have immediate results if it were translated into actual economic 
decisions.' The topic, Oxford indicated: 'should be given close attention by any agencies 
for further study which may be established in the future [i.e. by the World Council of 
Churches whose formation had been approved at Oxford]'. Oxford, p. 117. 


almost defenceless and by the proletarianization of the industrial 
worker who may almost be defined as a tool-tender of someone 
else's machine. Oxford had hoped that later ecumenical thought 
would have some suggestions on how the reality of the principle 
of private property could be reformulated in a day of the 
anonymous corporation and the assembly line and translated into 
concrete economic and political institutions. Such institutions, 
as a curb on the reckless employment of power and as an instru- 
ment for the moral enfranchisement of the proletariat, might 
well be considered important elements in 'the Responsible 
Society'. 1 

The Oxford Conference had offered some interesting leads 
for such an inquiry. The institution of property was mentioned 
in connexion with one of the five middle axioms, ends or stan- 
dards applicable to the testing of any economic situation, which 
declared: 'The resources of the earth, such as the soil and mineral 
wealth, should be recognized as gifts of God to the whole human 
race, and used with due and balanced consideration for the needs 
of the present and future generations.' 2 The institution of owner- 
ship was conceived to be a mechanism, resulting from social 
experience, designed to serve these needs. The social character 
of property was strongly emphasized, the right itself being 
described as 'relative and contingent' relative, presumably, to 
the purposes which established and justify it, and contingent on 
the superior claims of the community. The existing system of 
ownership was found defective both because of 'the largely 
non-moral processes by which [it] has been developed' and 

1 Emil Brunner argues the thesis, 'Without private property there is no freedom", in 
his Justice and the Social Order, pp. 54ff. 8off, Reinhold Niebuhr has pointed out: 'The 
obvious facts about property which both liberal and Marxist theories have obscured are : that 
all property is power, that some forms of economic power arc intrinsically more ordinate 
than others and therefore more defensible, but that no sharp line can be drawn between 
what is ordinate and what is inordinate; that property is not the only form of economic 
power, and that the destruction of private property does not therefore guarantee the 
equalization of economic power in a community; that inordinate power tempts its 
holders to abuse it, which means to use it for their own ends; that the economic, as well as 
the political, process requires the best possible distribution of power for the sake of justice, 
and the best possible management of this equilibrium for the sake of order.' The Children 
of Light and the Children of Darkness, p. 83. 

2 Oxford, ibid. 


because of the unsatisfactory distribution of actual property. 
Coming to the key question of contemporary society, the Oxford 
Conference underlined the crucial importance of distinguishing 
various forms of property. The problem is a complicated one. 
There are, for example, decisive differences in the personal 
relationships of the small farmer to his freehold, the independent 
retailer to his shop and the shareholder to the modern corporation. 
The deed to the family farm, the receipted bill of sale for the 
shop's fixtures and goods, and the shares possessed by one of the 
1,100,000 stockholders of the American Telephone and Telegraph 
Company each represent a certificate of ownership. The reality 
of possession, the power of control which the three types of papers 
(recognized in civil law as forms of ownership) denote are, 
however, enormously different and the social consequences 
of crucial importance, as the Oxford Conference pointed 
out. 1 

Subsequent ecumenical thinking has shown small interest in 
pursuing the problem, has not subjected the existing regime of 
ownership to further moral scrutiny nor seriously considered 
possible adaptions of present institutions of property better 
calculated to control concentrations of economic power. 
Institutional methods of distributing property by, say, policies 
of progressive taxation or profit sharing, have not been among 
the World Council's social inquiries, possibly because of the 
limitations of the Study Department's resources, possibly because 
they have been judged too specific or technical in content 2 but 
possibly, too, because of a difference of opinion in the Ecumenical 
Community on the importance and even the possibility of widely 
dispersed ownership. 

1 'All property which represents social power stands in special need of moral scrutiny, 
since power to determine the lives of others is the crucial point in any scheme of justice. . . , 
Industrial property in particular encourages the concentration of power, for it gives the 
owner control over both the place and the instruments of labour and thus leaves the worker 
powerless, so far as property relations are concerned, allowing him only the organized 
strength of his union and his political franchise to set against the power of ownership. 1 
Ibid. pp. 118-19. 

2 Yet the question of Technical Assistance to Underdeveloped Countries is a current 
object of study by the World Council. 


3. Further Implications and Problems 

As the World Council's study on the Responsible Society has 
progressed, it has been characterized by an increasing attention 
to the stubborn facts of the economic process and a growing 
respect for personal initiative as essential for the health of society. 
The importance of productivity and efficiency in industry as well 
as the necessity of a just distribution of the fruits of the machine 
have been recognized. 1 Rejecting the 'no enemies to the left' 
outlook of some Socialists, emphasis has been put on economic 
flexibility, on the significance of the private sector of the 
economy, on adaptable and decentralized action by the State, 
even on the place of the enterprising, energetic, expert business 
man. If indications of the specific economic and political 
institutions of the desired social order have not emerged, the 
inquiry has introduced into the ecumenical dialogue some fresh 
elements, while posing several questions still to be answered. 

The whole direction of the social order envisaged is towards 
decentralization. It is more than arguable 2 that society today is not 
disorganized but overorganized unto the destruction of com- 
munity. By 'community' is meant here that state of social life 
in which the meaning and purpose of existence are intimately 
interwoven into the institutions by which the essential functions 
of life are fulfilled. When farming or working or loving or 
serving are recognized as related to the ultimate meaning and 
purpose of existence, then all the routine activities of lire are 
enriched and men generally have what Le Play called 'social 
peace', the satisfaction of community. This relationship can best 
be achieved, without any doubt, in smaller groups, but only so 
long as the small group fulfils the essential function of its existence. 
Once the small group's purpose has been removed, it fails to be 
significant and any attempt to relate die meaning of personal 

1 The importance of productivity is seen in the following fact: 20,000 workers at the 
factory in Wolfsburg, Germany, produce 750 Volkswagen automobiles each day; 
51,000 are employed at the Renault works at Billancourt, France, to produce the same 
number of vehicles. Le Figaro, December u, 1953. 

2 For example by Robert A. Nisbet in The Quest for Community, whose argument is 
sketched above. 


living to it becomes a sterile sentimentalism. In stressing the 
importance of curbs on State action and in suggesting that centres 
of economic and political decision be returned to subordinate 
groups, the World Council seeks to build healthy social tissues. The 
writings of Mumford and Ropke indicate that modern technology 
can be directed to the functional independence of small groups 
as easily as it has been directed towards their repression. 

The emphasis on the principle of subsidiarity in the Responsible 
Society inquiry is endlessly suggestive and includes on the political 
level all the principles of federalism. 'Moreover, the renewing of 
personal life through the corporate life of small groups', as the 
Evanston Assembly recommended, the finding of personal fulfil- 
ment through fellowship, implies inevitably a recognition of 
differing functions in society and, in consequence, a certain hier- 
archy, not of dignity, but of authority, an idea which challenges 
the social egalitarianism widespread enough in World Council 
circles, a carry-over doubtless from the exuberance of the days 
of Christian Socialism. 

One element in all thinking on the social order, however, 
seems to have escaped the attention of the World Council 
constituency, that of motivation. Glancing references, too scanty 
to be jttdged a fixed point of view, give the impression sometimes 
that efforts to build the Temporal City are no more than forms 
of evangelism by way of attracting passers-by into the temple of 
the true God. Christianity, it is repeated, must supply the 
spiritual dynamic for social living, but how this is to be done is 
never indicated beyond (one can suppose) the force of example 
of an honest life. Christianity, one reads regularly in World 
Council pronouncements, cannot be identified with any economic 
system or political order. Yet, on the other hand, the members 
of the Ecumenical Community are constantly exhorted to make 
their faith count in the contemporary world. 

Would the position taken by another inter-confessional body, 
the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States, 
be thought too controversial or simplicist by the World Council? 
That American religious organization in its Social Creed of the 


Churches of 1932 declared that Christianity brings to the social 
order, not a set of particular ideas, but the motivation engendered 
by the ideals and goals of faith. 1 Such an attitude, of course, 
concedes a limited and subordinate autonomy to the temporal 
order and means abandoning the one-dimensioned vision of the 
unique City submitting itself to its heavenly King. 

The social order which the World Council envisages is mani- 
festly still to be elaborated. Under the caption, 'The Responsible 
Society', however, it has projected the general criteria for the 
economic and political institutions which the Christian must 
labour to construct in a world in which he is, to be sure, only a 
pilgrim but in whose activities he is inescapably involved. 

In a study of the social philosophy of the World Council of 
Churches, should the Orthodox Churches be listed as proponents 
of an 'ethic of ends' or of an 'ethic of inspiration'? 2 Despite the 
different theological foundations of the two competing ethical 
attitudes and the constant emphasis of Orthodox participants on 
the primacy of dogmatics in ecumenical discourse, the question 
has small appositeness. The reason is simple and derives more 
from historical experience than theological premises : the Orthodox 
Churches have not seriously nor systematically concerned them- 
selves with social or political questions as problems for the 
Christian mind as well as tasks for Christian charity. 

Despite Orthodox insistence in regarding the World Council 
exclusively as an instrument for the collaboration of the churches 
in practical and social questions, despite an occasional complaint 
that Orthodoxy is not adequately represented on World Council 

1 'The teachings of Christ which bear on economics are not expressed in technical terms 
but deal primarily with motives and human values for social intercourse.' Quoted by 
Charles S. Macfarland, Christian Unity in Practice and Prophecy, p. 295. 

2 The view of Professor P. Bratsiotis, in the World Council symposium, on 'The 
Biblical Authority for the Church's Social and Political Message Today', that Orthodoxy 
recognizes the Natural Law, believes that the Bible, expounded and supplemented by 
Apostolic tradition, yields new and profounder insights and that faith in Christ ought to 
inspire andgovernthe attitude of the Church insocial and political matters, would certainly 
place the Orthodox Churches in the 'ethic of ends' category of approach to social 
questions. C Biblical Authority for Today, pp. 2,7 ff. 


committees and in its administration, 1 Orthodox groups who 
do participate in World Council activities seem to have no 
specific contribution to make to the effort to analyse and resolve 
the 'peril for all mankind which is without precedent in the whole 
of human history' to employ the language of the Amsterdam 
Message. During that Assembly the Metropolitan Chrysostom 
of Philippi and Neapolis gave an address on 'The Christian 
Witness in Social and National Life' at a public meeting on 
August 30. Invoking the benefits Christianity had bestowed on 
Western civilization, His Beatitude confined himself to a plea 
for personal spiritual reformation. 2 What these spiritually 
renewed individuals are to do about international and domestic 
problems, His Beatitude did not indicate; in what direction their 
principles would lead them in economic amelioration and 
political decisions, he did not hint. Exclusively spiritual cures 
for institutional disorder would seem, as inadequate a solution as 
superficial social palliatives. Possibly the Orthodox speaker was 
addressing himself more to the obligation of evangelizing the 
world (the scope of Section II at Amsterdam) than diagnosing 
the ills of contemporary society and suggesting helpful lines of 
social stability (the field of Section III). If so, he was not the only 
commentator whose apostolic zeal or pastoral responsibility 
led him to confuse the status quaestionis. 

There is no intention here of deprecating the social consequences 
of Orthodoxy's constant inculcation of the spirit of charity. 
The autocephalous churches have, moreover, maintained national 
traditions under alien occupation, served as the cohesive force of 
ancient aspirations and, notably in the cases of Greece and 

1 e.g. I. Karmiris, 'The Orthodox Catholic Church and her Relations with Other 
Churches and with the World Council of Churches.' WCC Study Department Docu- 
ment 49E/607A, p. 26. There was no Orthodox representative on the Study Commissions 
for Amsterdam's Sections III and IV, none on the Preparatory Commission for Evanston's 
Section on 'The Responsible Society', one only, Dr. Charles Malik, for the Section on 
International Affairs; and his was, in effect, a purely honorary nomination. 

2 'The reformation of society must therefore begin by the renewal of individuals and 
especially by the renewal of those who are responsible for preaching the message of 
salvation to men and accomplishing God's design on earth. I hope, therefore, with all my 
heart that the Ecumenical Movement may receive the seal of God's blessing and may 
bear many spiritual fruits in society.' Text (mimeographed) in Archives. 


Bulgaria, stimulated the movement for national liberation. 
These achievements are celebrated by the Bishop of Novi-Sad, 
Yugoslavia, in his essay, 'The Social Ethics of Orthodox Chris- 
tianity'. Significantly, however, the Bishop introduces his study 
with the admission: 'So far as I know, there is no system of social 
ethics in the Orthodox Church: at least there is none which has 
exercised any influence for centuries.' 1 

The situation is the result of the primarily speculative character 
of Eastern theology, of the other-worldly temper of Orthodox 
spirituality; it is the product, too, of the peculiar historical 
experience of the Eastern Churches. The theological interest of 
the Oriental Church has traditionally centred on the mysteries 
of the inner life of the divinity rather than the problems of the 
order of creation, particularly the ambiguities of the human 
predicament. Orthodox spirituality, stemming largely from the 
monasteries, has counselled a fellowship of poverty and love and 
a flight from sin this last involving, at least by implication, a 
turning away from the self-condemned 'world' of cities with 
their superficial pleasures, the State with its pomp and military 
power, and the civil life of trade with its conniving and heartless- 
ness, the arena of bad people absorbed in the things of time. 
Mundane affairs are apparently judged to be outside the warming 
ambit of holiness whose cultivation demands a withdrawal, 
preferably in the form of flight from, the contamination of earthly 
interests, and apparently presupposes, in consequence, an abandon- 
ment of any effort to establish justice among sinful men. History 
has exploited as well as nurtured this preference for passivity in 
Orthodox spirituality. The Christian Ruler with the divine 
mandate to protect the Church becomes the Tsar, the symbol of 
sanctified power, with jurisdiction over ecclesiastical affairs. 

In a survey of theological opinions on the nature of the State, 
made in preparation for the 1937 Oxford Conference of Life and 
Work, no effort was made to outline the doctrinal presuppositions 
of Orthodox political thought. The author explained the 
omission by appealing to his lack of personal knowledge of 

1 In Une Enqutte sur I'Ethique Sociale des Eglises, p. 25. 


Orthodox churches themselves and by pointing to 'the doctrinal 
formlessness of Orthodoxy'. 1 This last criticism refers un- 
doubtedly not merely to the cosmic vision of Orthodox theology 
and the mystical preoccupation of its spirituality but especially 
to its tendency to identify the Church with the religious destiny 
of the nation. The tendency is especially acute in the idea of the 
messianic mission of 'Holy Russia' with the Tsar, an Old Testa- 
ment King redivivus leading his people, charged to Christianize 
the world, and, through the Holy Synod, guiding the Church, 
whose preaching and Liturgy provide the spiritual symbolism 
and supernatural alimentation for the nation's divine destiny. 
Even the radical, pre-revolutionary opposition to what was 
considered the sterile ritualism of Russian Orthodoxy, the 
underground religion of the Raskol, the Schism, made its protest 
in the name of the spiritual mission of the Russian nation. 
Professor Adolf Keller, who believes that the Raskol helped to 
prepare the ground for political nihilism and ultimately for 
Bolshevism, describes the movement as 'an enthusiastic, ascetic 
and chiliastic mysticism . . . the religion of simple and oppressed 
minds and glowing hearts, capable of apocalyptic visions and 
ready for the Day of Judgment, a new earth and a new heaven'. 2 
Generous-minded if anti-intellectual, another emotional effort 
to return to the simple brotherhood of primitive Christianity, 
the Raskol was, nevertheless, intransigendy nationalist. Its 
complaint against Tsarism was the regime's betrayal of the 
mission of 'Holy Russia' to the materialism of Western civiliza- 
tion; its strictures on die Orthodox Church included the accusation 
of betraying Christ to 'the world'. Even the anti-institutional 
movement in Orthodoxy and the Raskol dated from the seven- 
teenth century tended to identify the Church with the nation. 

The Patriarch Nicodim of Bucharest may well have experienced 
a definite disquiet during the official visit of the new Praesidium 
of the Rumanian People's Republic on January 1, 1948. Expres- 
sing greetings for the New Year, Premier Peter Groza observed: 

1 Nils Ehrenstrom, Christian Faith and the Modern State, p. 67. 
8 Church and State on the European Continent, p. 67. 


The Church is an institution with permanent usefulness in the life 
of the people. It is part of the State itself, keeping pace with the 
spirit of the times. The Orthodox Christian Church, having always 
understood this, will surely understand it this time. 1 

There was an unconcealed menace in the context of the language 
of the Premier of the new Communist government but the 
sentiments expressed were unexceptional. They might even be 
termed traditional. One can easily imagine Pobiedonostzev, Pro- 
curator General of the Holy Synod, employing identical phrases 
in an address to the Patriarch of Moscow fifty years earlier. 2 

The character of its theological preoccupations, the temper of 
its spirituality and the consequences of its historical identification 
with the State have poorly equipped Orthodoxy for fruitful 

1 EPS, January 30, 1948. 

2 It Is possible to see in this historical heritage (rather than in perhaps more obvious 
explanations) the grounds for the present attitude of officials of the Russian Orthodox 
Church towards the Soviet Government. Is this what the Rev. Francis House, subse- 
quently Associate General Secretary of the World Council, had in mind when he remarked 
on his return from a war-time visit to Moscow: 'The Church is as free and as self-governing 
as at any rime in Russian history 1 ? EPS, October 1944. The Patriarch Alexei included 
in the volume of his published speeches and addresses his remark to a representative of 
Izvestia: 'In the war years the Russian Church demonstrated before the whole world 
its complete solidarity with the country, serving it, and thus doing as the Government 
does: the Church helps the Government and does its bidding.' His Beatitude noted that 
he customarily closes his Pastoral Letters with the admonition: 'Let us intensify our 
intercession for the God-protected and powerful Russian State, headed by its wise leader, 
whom Divine Providence has appointed to guide our country upon the path of glory and 
well-being.' EPS, June 3, 1949. In the spring of 1948 the Patriarch of Moscow granted 
an interview to a Renter's correspondent who asked his 'opinion of Stalin as head of the 
Soviet people'. The reply declared: 'In this form your question has nothing to do with 
the position of the Church.' To the question, 'Is there any conflict between the theory 
and practice of Communism on the one hand and religious beliefs on the other?' His 
Beatitude answered: 'The question is not clear. The Orthodox Church is not in conflict 
with anybody within the Soviet State.' Les Nouvelles Russes, May ai, 1948, quoted in 
EPS, May 28, 1948. A year later a special Supplement of the Journal of the Moscow 
Patriarchate (No. 4, 1949) reprinted the replies of Alexei to Renter's correspondent, 
Donald Dulles, dated August I and occasioned by the action of the Patriarch of Con- 
stantinople in excommunicating any Greek Orthodox supporting Communism. His 
Beatitude of Moscow called the decision 'a radical contradiction of the fundamental 
principles underlying the Orthodox Christian creed'. To the question, 'Is there, in your 
view, a conflict between loyalty to the Soviet State and loyalty to the Russian Church?' 
the Patriarch of Moscow replied: 'To this question there is only one possible answer: 
Not only is there no conflict but there never could be one, if our faithful people hold by 
the true meaning of the Gospel's commandments and the Apostles' legacies to posterity." 
EPS, September 9, 1949. 


collaboration in the task of constructing a social philosophy to 
serve as an agreed basis for appraising our economic institutions by 
the World Council of Churches. The ancient Churches of the 
East have great and abiding glories to boast a realization of the 
primacy of doctrine, a Liturgy centring on the transcendent 
significance of the Resurrection, an unaffected piety, a spirit of 
personal philanthropy but an interest in the social consequences 
of Christianity does not seem to be among their gifts. 'In Ortho- 
dox Russia there have never been any important organizations 
or movements of social Christianity', is the summary judgment 
of Professor G. P. Fedotov. 1 The experience of Orthodoxy in 
Russia is paralleled by that of the other autocephalous churches 
in this regard; the reasons are the same. 'Redemption had a 
cosmic meaning; but it meant little for daily life, for the solution 
of social problems.' 2 

As a result, the Orthodox participants at World Council 
Assemblies have played no discoverable part in the formulation 
of the Reports on social questions. At Amsterdam and again 
at Evanston a single representative of Orthodoxy was assigned 
to the Drafting Committee preparing such a Report. In each 
instance the delegate chosen was a member of the Church of 
Greece, intellectually the most active of the Orthodox churches. 
The Secretary's Minutes fail, however, to offer any evidence of 
intervention in die Sectional discussions. Part of the difficulty is 
possibly attributable to lack of fluency in English on the part of 
Eastern participants. Lack of widespread interest in social ques- 
tions (and consequently the absence of study) on the part of the 
Orthodox world is the decisive factor. 3 In ecumenical gatherings 
the Orthodox participants clearly consider dogmatic questions 
their speciality and their responsibility. Such, in fact, is the 
credit claimed for his confessional group by Dr. Nicolas Zernov 
in his exposition of 'The Scope and Significance of Eastern 

1 'The Church and Social Justice', WCC Study Department Document 5oE/6o9A, 
p. 15 (mimeographed). a Keller, op. cit., p. 76. 

8 Unhappily, die projected volume of Orthodox thinking on the Amsterdam topics 
was never compiled. The only organized examination of social questions in the Orthodox 
world, known to the writer, is a study-circle which meets at the University of Athens 
under the direction of Dr. Panayotis Bratsiotis, Professor of Old Testament exegesis. 


Participation in the Ecumenical Movement', contributed to the 
History of the Ecumenical Movement, 15 17-1948 1 


Christianity is not a philosophy but it involves a philosophy 
of history. It offers a conception of the significance of human 
life and the value of time based on the belief that the present 
historical order will reach its end and culmination in a series of 
events originating beyond this natural universe; these culminating 
events will bring in the fulfilment of human history. The events 
terminating the present historical order are known in the Christian 
tradition as the eschata, the Last Things, and the interpretation 
of their implications is called 'eschatology'. It is the conviction 
of the World Council that eschatology offers a fruitful field of 
study for a fresh realization of the bearing of the Christian faith 
on the religious needs of modern man, that it alone offers a solid 
ground for a fully human life and for an ethical attitude centred on 
the Bible. That the theological premises and ethical consequences 
in the existential order of eschatology are being plumbed by the 
World Council of Churches is another fruit of the movement for 
a return to the Reformation in the Ecumenical Community. 2 

i. The Meaning of History 

It is commonly forgotten how unique the Christian philosophy 
of history is. The universe represented for the ancient Greeks a 

1 'Their [the Orthodox] chief contribution, however, was in those spheres of Christian 
life and worship where the Protestant West had been in the past particularly suspicious 
of the East, for example, in the emphasis on the Eucharist, and on veneration of the 
saints, and in insistence on the necessity of recognizing the significance of the Blessed 
Virgin Mary in the work of reconciliation.' p. 673. 

2 'Thirty years ago, if someone had asked what the relevance of eschatology was for 
social ethics, he would have received a rather knowing smile and a retort that Christianity 
had fortunately gone beyond eschatology into the field of social ethics. Christians had ceased 
to wait for the coming of the Kingdom of God and were concerned for improving the 
world and human society and for bringing them up to a certain standard. The fact is that 
such a development did occur in Christian thinking but it was a sign of the secularization, 
of both the Gospel and the Church Today we need to move in the opposite direction, 
away from the social ethics which has its roots in a socially autonomous, idealistic or 
humanistic outlook, away even from a "Christian sociology" back into the realm of 
eschatology.' Heinz Dietrich Wendland, 'The Relevance of Eschatology for Social 
Ethics', ER v (July 1953), 4, p. 364. 


cosmic order constantly renewed in regular phases. Human 
existence was caught up in this regular scheme of nature: there 
was no escaping the sorrowful wheel, whence the inexplicable 
tragedy of life barely concealed under the blithe spirit of Attic 
humanism. The Stoic conception of changeless fate, moving in 
cycles like the spheres of the heavens, explains in good part the 
annoyance of the Roman philosopher, Celsus, against the 
Christians. A civilization exalting the high dignity (and moral 
necessity) of a passive acceptance of, and accommodation to, an 
implacably fixed order of nature could not but be shocked at the 
seemingly anarchistic announcement that God had abandoned 
His transcendence to play a part in human history. For many an 
Oriental, existence is the expression of an ultimate reality with- 
out 'purpose or activity, and life is an illusion to be escaped in a 
Nirvana attained by willing not to will, an asceticism opposite 
in practice but not unrelated in philosophical premises to con- 
temporary Sartrian existentialism counselling maturity through 
disillusionment in the encounter with nothingness. 

The conviction that the universe is self-explanatory, that 
mankind will realize all its possibilities within the historical order 
has underlain the dominant philosophy of the modern era. That 
conviction has been elaborated in theories whose Utopian optim- 
ism would have astonished the sanguine Democritus and the 
complacent Lucretius, and whose essentially religious character 
often mocked the noisy atheism of their advocates. For all these 
theories, of differing provenance, strive alike to appraise the 
meaning of history and the significance of life. The various 
scientific disciplines, formulating the laws of growth in the 
material universe, bred a bastard belief that began with a naive 
act of faith in the existence of a parallel law of development in 
human history, operating by a process related to nothing beyond 
itself 1 and whose meaning is synonymous with the fact of 
movement, by definition, beneficent and infallible. The 

1 Thus John Dewey: 'Since in reality there is nothing to which growth is relative save 
more growth, there is nothing to which education is subordinate save more education. . . . 
The criterion of the value of school education is the extent in which it creates a desire 
for continued growth.' Democracy and Education, pp. 60-2. 


movement was instinctive, irreversible and infallible. 1 Time 
would see its fulfilment. 

Despite the disillusionment succeeding the easy optimism of 
the Victorian Age, the human spirit is irrepressible in its longings, 
a fact of no small theological significance. Contemporary history, 
in consequence, offers a spate of movements promising liberation 
from personal limitations in the service of a cause. These grounds 
for hope, by-products or deviates frequently of the Christian 
tradition, have one thing in common: the fulfilment of human 
expectations within the historical order. 

2. The World Council turns to Eschatology 

To stimulate ecumenical thought on the unique character of 
the Christian faith, particularly its relevance for daily living, the 
World Council of Churches decided that the main theme of its 
Second Assembly should explore the realm of eschatology. 
The choice indicated the desire to concentrate on Bible-centred 
topics in ecumenical thought; it revealed also the influence of 
the movement for a return to Reformation insights in "World 
Council circles. 2 A committee of thirty-five theologians of 
different denominations and schools of thought was appointed 
to prepare a document on 'Christ the Hope of the World'. 
Somewhat revised after examination by the Central Committee 
in 1952, the Report was presented to the Evanston delegates to 
serve as the basis for the Assembly's first ten days of common 

1 Quintessentially expressed by Herbert Spencer: 'Progress is not an accident but a 
necessity. "What we call evil and immorality must disappear. It is certain that man must 
become perfect. The ultimate development of the ideal man is certain as certain as any 
conclusion in which we place implicit faith; for instance, that all men will die. . . . 
Always towards perfection is the mighty movement towards complete development 
and a more unmixed good.' Quoted by D. C. Somervell, English Thought in the i<)th 
Century, p. 164. 

2 'In early Calvinism, the eschatological point of view is simply dominant. All the 
individual doctrines are related to eschatology. It is there that the dynamic element of 
early Calvinism resides It is from that source, too, that the faith and life of the community 
and above all the activity of the State derive their provisional character. The present is 
in expectation of what is to come of the future life. This is the ferment which penetrated 
the thought and soul of Calvin.' Peter Earth in Une Enquete stir I'Ethique Sociak des 
Eglises, p. 37. 


Because of the importance of the subject-matter in the evolution 
of the social thought of the World Council, the Report is worth 
close examination. It opens with an analysis of five of the more 
representative of current substitute-religions under the caption, 
'The Hopes of our Time'. They can be summarized in this 
fashion. 1 

(a) Democratic Humanism was judged more an ethical than a 
political concept. From its Christian origin it draws its recog- 
nition of the worth of the human person, the fundamental 
equality of all men and their essential solidarity; from other 
cultural and philosophical movements has come its faith, 
'faith in the capacity of education or technology to solve all 
human problems, belief in inevitable progress and above all 
disregard or denial of God's sovereignty over the world with a 
consequent failure to see the imperfect, precarious and transient 
character of all human achievements'. It is the creed of Demo- 
cratic Humanism that 'man is master of his own destiny and can 
achieve a perfect society'. Hope need not reach beyond the 
improving of human existence, for relying on his innate powers 
man can achieve the good life for himself and his community. 

(&) Scientific Humanism likewise expresses complete confidence 
in man. Encouraged by the accomphshments of the scientific 
method in both the theoretical understanding of nature and the 
betterment of the human lot, it prizes that methodology as 
the source of total truth and the sole key to the satisfaction of the 
needs of mankind. Science, applied to human affairs, offers 
the illusion of hope for humanity cherished by many outside the 
ranks of the scientists. 

(c) Marxism was described as at once a philosophy of history, 
a practical programme of action and a powerful secular religion. 
As a philosophy, 'it teaches that man has no fixed nature but is 
constantly being made and remade in history, which in turn by 
social action he helps to make'. The Marxist reading of history 
is fundamentally optimistic, promising the victims of racial 
discrimination, the peasant scratching at his thin soil, the workman 

1 Included in CHTC. Also issued separately as a booklet. 


oppressed by a feeling of anonymity, and the scientist revolted 
by the destructive use made of his knowledge, that they can 
fulfil their messianic task for all mankind by bringing about the 
inevitable revolution under the leadership of a disciplined 
Communist Party, one with allies across all national frontiers. 

(cT) Nationalism and the Renaissance of Ancient Religions. Since 
the last war, and particularly in Asia and Africa, a revolution that 
is social, political and religious is ill progress. For countless 
millions, history, formerly a wearisome repetition of unvarying 
events, has become suddenly alive and controllable, an area of 
combat in the pursuit of political liberation and economic 
subsistence. 'There is a new confidence among the adherents of 
Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam that their several religions hold 
the answer to the ills of the world.' 

(e) The Hope of the Hopeless. Atheistic existentialists have in 
many countries elevated their frank acceptance of the essential 
absurdity of human existence into a new absolute, providing 
the only security open to the honest man. The individual, it is 
protested, is 'completely alone, surrounded only by meaning- 
lessness, so that if his life is to have any value, he must create such 
meanings and value for himself, not forgetting that death puts 
an end to all'. Countless millions, moreover, with no philosophical 
pretensions, have found the experiences of life so bitter and 
disillusioning that they refuse to be distracted from the tragedy 
of existence by the mirages of political nostrums or promises of 
social amelioration. They have found a certain assurance in 
sounding the depths of despair and surviving the 'encounter with 
nothingness', a certain courage in the renunciation of all 

All of these contemporary secularist philosophies of history 
join ancient Greek, Stoic and Oriental thought in agreeing that 
human existence is a phenomenon, specialized doubtless, but 
essentially contiguous to all other events in a time-bound universe 
of nature, that its significance cannot be sought therefore beyond 
the limits of history, that history is a drama played before changing 
audiences with constantly shifting participants but always under 


a proscenium opening only on to a new epoch, of time, the whole 
framed by the finite. 

One Oriental people, however, was convinced that history 
moved towards a sudden, decisive change, that the change would 
be wrought from outside the universe, from beyond the limits 
of time (though occurring in the historical order), that human 
existence found its meaning and mankind its hope in view of that 
expectation. Whatever the interpretation of the coming change 
held by the Jewish people at different periods, it is the conviction 
of Christians that that event took place in a backward province 
of the Roman Empire under the Procurator, Pontius Pilate. 
Such a conviction creates a distinct philosophy of history. For 
Christianity not the sentimental perversion of it whose total 
content is universal benevolence is unique because of its assertion 
that history takes its meaning from the implications of that event. 
In the language of the World Council Report: 

Our hope is grounded in one great Event, comprising the incarnation, 
ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this Event the 
purpose of God for man, foreshadowed in His dealings with Israel 
and declared by the prophets, found fulfilment, and His Kingdom 
was inaugurated on earth, to be consummated hereafter. 1 

By this event the world has been reconstituted and the human 
situation redefined. The intrusion of God into the historical 
process adds a new dimension to the interpretation of life. 
'His coming fulfilled the hope of earlier times and transformed 
it. He brought to men a new birth into a new life, a new 
community and a new hope.' 

The Christian philosophy of history includes, moreover, the 
belief that He whose coming gave meaning to history and a new 
situation to each person, will return to close the course of history 
and fulfil the destiny of individuals. There is an omega as well as 
an alpha to history, for history has a point. That expectation is 
the grottnd of hope which specifies and illumines the Christian 
philosophy of history. It implies as well a certain tension 

i CHTC, p. 14. 


measuring the worth of time and pointing imperiously to the 
culmination. 1 

3. The Variety of Christian Eschatology 

'In the beginning was the Word' a purpose existing outside 
time directs the course of history; 'the Word was made flesh' 
that purpose, personified in Jesus Christ, entered the human scene 
at a given moment of time; 'and He will come again to judge 
the living and the dead' time will be terminated and the transient 
Temporal City, the stage of history, transformed 011 His regal 
return to share His triumph with His expectant followers: these 
are the pillars of the Christian philosophy of history. The 
Report of the Advisory Commission on the Evanston Theme 
indicated the implications of this philosophy for the believer 
who faces a double temptation: 

In his longing for the heavenly city with all its blessedness he may 
pass by his fellow-man, fallen among thieves, and leave him. by the 
road side. . . . He may so confine his attention to the possibilities 
of this present world as to forget that the whole world lies under 
judgment. 2 

The danger is double: daunted by the apparently unconquered 
power of evil, the believer may despair of this world and fix his 
whole attention on that which is to come; assured by his sharing 
in Christ's risen power, he may forget that what is here given is 
only a foretaste and confuse man's achievements with God's 
Kingdom. Since the Christian hope 'is anchored in a Kingdom 
that both has come and is coming', the life of the believer has a 
double orientation. 

The differing social attitudes deriving from eschatology will 
depend on the selective emphasis placed by the individual 
conscience on one of three formulations of fundamental Christian 
belief: (i) Jesus Christ came, (2) He has come, (3) He will come 
again. The second version of the Report of the Advisory 

1 C, for a primitive Christian expression of this conviction. 2 Peter iii. 8-10 

2 CHTC, p. 8. 


Commission suggested the same distinction in pointing out that 
Christian hope must be 'anchored in God Who comes to us in 
Jesus Christ, and looking at once to what He has done, what He 
is doing now and what He will do for His people and His world, 
in completion of His saving work'. Of course, a balanced Chris- 
tian philosophy of history, an integrated Christian outlook, will 
keep all these emphases in equilibrium, but that is a considerable 
achievement of spiritual serenity and certainly a major task of 
theological synthesis. Given the partial character of personal 
moral insight and the hmitations of any theological synthesis, 
one or other of the emphases will dominate the religious attitude 
of the individual and the explanations of the theologian. 

Since Christianity is concerned with the 'Kingdom of God' 
announced by Jesus Christ, these same emphases will manifest 
themselves in the conviction that the Kingdom the realm of 
justice and peace and love (i) is already realized or (2) is realiz- 
able or (3) will be realized beyond history. These emphases, social 
consequences of various eschatological perspectives, will be 
(need one repeat?) attitudes rather than systems. For the eschato- 
logical outlook is based primarily on biblical considerations 
which seek to confront the individual with the essential elements 
of a permanent, personal crisis. Ethics, even social ethics, is 
conceived as operative in concrete decisions rather than elaborated 
from a series of principles. Finally, these differing emphases 
supply varying grounds for the virtue of hope, and changing 
connotations of the invocation, 'Thy Kingdom Come!' To the 
extent that the sifting of these emphases is more a matter of logical 
distinction than of firm theological differentiation, the classifica- 
tion of their consequences will be arbitrary, even adventitious. 
It must be recognized, however, that the differences frequently 
run deeper than mere meter-readings of religious psychology or 
the contrasting temper of schools of spirituality, and involve 
fundamental, dogmatic divergences. 

(a) A one-sided concentration on the benefits bestowed by 
Christ the emphasis expressed in the phrase, 'He came produces 
an ethical escapism, a spiritual smugness, a religious isolationism. 


Confident of possessing the secret of salvation and the resources 
for enduring evil, confident that human culture is fundamentally 
ephemeral and the world evanescent, this sort of Christian awaits 
almost apathetically the close of the drama of history whose 
outcome is predetermined and, therefore, not interesting. Such 
religious individualism restricts the relevance of the Gospel to 
the transcendental sphere alone and reduces the idea of the 
Kingdom of God to the fact of personal immortality. 1 Ethical 
irrelevance and social pessimism are its consequences. This 
emphasis, confining the jurisdiction of Christ to the spiritual 
concerns of individual souls and isolating the interests of the 
Kingdom from the ways of the world, is traditionally considered 
a consequence of Luther's teaching. Though a prominent 
Lutheran theologian 2 argues that such a distortion can only be 
attributed to unenlightened followers of the sixteenth-century 
reformer, it is not without significance that there exists no 
Evangelical periodical devoted to social questions in Germany 
or Scandinavia. Moreover, a German member of the World 
Council's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, 
Professor Rudolf Smend, felt compelled to list as an obstacle to 
his country's active interest in the work of the Commission, 
*our heavy burden of theology'. 3 

(b) The opposite extreme of emphasis which considers the 
Kingdom of God a wholly future condition to be ushered in by 
the imminent return of Christ, is an aberration recurring with 
curious regularity in exotic sects throughout the history of 

1 la the opinion of an American historian of religion, H. Richard Niebuhr, this 
essentially other-worldly faith, which 'condemns every aspect of the present world, 
including culture, religious strivings and every attempt at an amelioration of social evils 
as the expression of a depraved and lost will, has been resurrected today by the crisis 
theology of Germany'. The Social Sources ofDenotninationalism, p. 275. 

3 E. Berggrav, Der Staat und der Mensch, pp. 36511". 

8 Tor far too long German theology (especially of late Lutheranism which has been 
so much misunderstood) has refused to co-operate in working out a Christian ethic for 
public life, on the pretext that the Kingdom of God has nothing to do with the political 
orders of this world. Through this refusal German theology has left a free field open to 
all the demons of power-politics and created the foundations of that political helplessness 
and uncritical loyalty of the German people without which the Third Reich and its 
uncontested duration would have been unthinkable.' Gottinger Universitdts-Zeitung, 
December 20, 1946, as quoted in EPS, January 1947, p. 13. 


Christianity. These world-forsaking millenarians sharply separate 
the glorious future from, the squalid present and, by a pedantic 
literalism in their reading of prophecies, feel liberated from 
temporal involvements. Anarchism, sometimes in the harmless 
form of abandonment of all possessions in organized flight from 
the cities, sometimes in the more direct fashion of social revolt, 
characterizes this social attitude. Apocalypticism, it need scarcely 
be said, has no adherents in World Council circles. 

That millenarianism represents the primitive Christian con- 
ception was the claim of a school of Bible critics at the beginning 
of the century among whom Albert Schweitzer is the most 
celebrated name. Considering Christ a visionary, bemused by 
His belief in the imminent end of the world, these writers held 
that only a few central ideas can be salvaged from the Gospels. 
The rest, they insisted, is vitiated by the error of judgment of 
Jesus who propagated an 'interim ethic' to tide people over the 
short time remaining before human history was concluded in 
cosmic catastrophe. A contributor 1 to the symposium sponsored 
by the World Council, 'The Biblical Authority for the Church's 
Social and Political Message Today', agreed that the judgments 
expressed in the New Testament were conditioned by the 
expectation of the early end of the world, thus limiting its 
usefulness as a source of social guidance, for 'to make a social and. 
political programme in the expectation that what has not hap- 
pened in 1900 years will surely happen in our time is criminal 
dereliction of Christian responsibility'. It is perhaps character- 
istic that the author believed that the Church 'has no obligation 
to work for the transformation of social institutions. Its sole task 
is to call men to their true citizenship in the age to come. Absorp- 
tion in social tasks of the present age only diverts from, the real 
objective.' 2 That the writer was at his death in 1953 Vice- 
Chairman of the Commission on Faith and Order illustrates 
possibly the tension in the World Council structure, predicted 
by Dr. Cavert, 3 between the two functions, ecclesiastical unity 

1 Professor Clarence Tucker Craig. 2 Biblical Authority for Today, pp. 42-3. 

3 Cf. supra, p. 8 1 n. 


and social reform, between the tendencies represented by the 
parent organizations, Life and Work and Faith and Order. For 
the rnillenarian the Kingdom of God is a spiritual conception, 
a wholly future situation which will be realized outside time. 

(c) For those whose ethical attitude reflects an exaggerated 
emphasis suggested by the phrase 'He has come', the Kingdom is 
a form of social organization to be realized in history by human 
efforts. When President Charles W. Eliot of Harvard gave his 
memorable address to the University Divinity School in 1909 on 
'The Religion of the Future', he invoked no visions of the New 
Age when all the former things of the historical order will have 
passed away. The 'Religion of the Future', this Christian educator 
argued with unconscious irony, should concern itself with the 
needs of the present, with public baths, playgrounds, wider and 
cleaner streets and better dwellings. 1 Christianity is thus reduced 
to an aspect of Civics. A climax to the human drama with a 
divine judgment closing the temporal sequence is shadowy 
(when not merely symbolic) in the thought supporting this 
ethical attitude. The Last Things are interpreted, by a transposition 
manifesting biological observation rather than, theological 
insight, as a stage in the perfection of society, ever evolving but 
obeying always inherent and necessary laws of development. 2 
Religious socialism is a common political . expression of this 
ethical attitude; it tends to identify reform legislation and inter- 
national organizations with God's will; rising literacy rates, the 
growth of trade union membership and voting rights for women, 
along with the improvement of medical care, provide it with 
grounds for hope. However attractive its sympathies and 

1 The next time a President of Harvard addressed the University Divinity School was 
in 1953. Dr. Nathan Pusey, adverting to his famous predecessor's views, remarked: 
'This faith will no longer do . It is leadership in rehgious knowledge and even more 
in religious experience of which we now have a most gaping need.' 'A Religion For 
Now', Harper's, December 1953, p. 20. 

a An American exponent of the 'Social Gospel', Harry F. Ward, announced that; 
'The new social order will be based not on fighting but on fraternity . . , not simply 
because the co-operative fraternal life is the highest ideal of human living but because 
the spirit and method of co-operation is the scientific law of human, progress.' 
The New Social Order (New York: Macmillan, 1919), p. 104, as quoted by Reinhold 
Niebuhr in Faith and History, p. 236. 


admirable its public activities, it must be acknowledged that this 
emphasis annuls the essential tension of the Christian faith intro- 
duced by the reality of the eschatological events: it neglects the 
power of evil in history and seems sanguinely to expect (judging 
at least from its optimistic prophecies) the salvation of society 
to be achieved by human efforts and within history. 

(d) The main theme of the Evanston Assembly 'Christ 
the Hope of the World' implied that an eschatology which 
harmonizes in a balanced view the full scope of the Gospel 
message can alone lead men past the mirages of the demonic 
Utopias of the day to meaningful living in modern society and 
can furnish a secure hope which will at once shed light on the 
perplexities of evil and impel Christians to play a responsible role 
in human affairs. 

4. Eschatological Synthesis 

In the perspective of such a balanced eschatology, the Report 
of the Advisory Committee indicated, God's purpose has declared 
itself in history through Christ, liberating men from their serf- 
centredness, their isolation, even from the curse of death, fashion- 
ing thereby a new beginning for humanity, a new meaning for 
history, both to be fulfilled beyond time. His victory is already 
achieved, His Lordship is already established, but both are hidden 
in the ambiguities of history and apprehended only by faith, 
giving the Christian a participation in that victory and a know- 
ledge of the laws of the Kingdom of God Whose sovereignty is 
untouched by social disorder, unaffected by human treachery. 
Sharing the victory of Christ does not spare either the individual 
or the Christian Community misunderstanding and even 
persecution at the hands of a world which crucified its Lord. 
Nor does the existence of the Kingdom of God, already planted 
in time, guarantee social justice and international harmony. 
Though He presently reigns in history and is progressively 
transforming the world, accessible always to believers who 
attend to His Word, God's purpose as personified in Christ will 
be consummated only at his triumphant return, an event ending 


the sequence of past-present-future, fulfilling the expectation of 
faith and completing the mission of the world to serve as the 
stage whereon was played the divine drama of God's mysterious 
plan in history. 

Such a perspective catches up all the positive values of con- 
temporary secular Utopias and integrates them in the fuller 
dimensions provided by the comprehensive Christian philosophy 
of history. Further, it imposes on Christians, the Advisory 
Commission argues, the obligation of correcting the faulty 
perspective of contemporary secularist hopes. Christians must 
purge democratic societies of false assumptions and unjustified 
illusions. They may welcome the sober scientist as a colleague 
in many common tasks, thanking God for his human compassion 
and disinterested service, but they must declare openly that the 
hope that man can shoulder the burdens of the world is an 
illusion that leads men through anxiety to despair; for God's 
sovereignty and man's sinfuhiess are permanent realities and 
out of good intentions evil as well as good arises to thwart 
personal endeavours and to plunge men into tyrannies and wars, 
civil chaos and social despair. They must uncompromisingly 
affirm the contemporary demand for economic and social justice, 
without vindictiveness or partisanship, acknowledging the 
responsibility of Christians, by act or by default, for the situation 
exploited by Communists, but they must remind Marxists that the 
denial of God's sovereignty over human history opens the way 
to the idolizing of the Party or the economic system, and mat 
the sanguine expectation of the abolition, of strife and self-seeking 
through economic levelling is belied by the facts of human nature 
and mocked by actual Marxist practice. They must strive to 
understand the faith and hope by which so many millions in 
Asia and Africa are seeking to shape their national and personal 
lives, and must welcome the struggle of those of other faiths to 
achieve social righteousness and the common good of their 
peoples; Christians must, in consequence, relate their preaching 
of the gospel in Asia and Africa to the immediate tasks demanded 
by Christ's coming. And for those who have renounced all hope 


in a stark affirmation of the absurdity of existence, Christians 
must bring an ungrudging sympathy and the assurance that 
there is One Who understands them better than they understand 

Invoking the principle of analogy employed by Barth, the 
Report notes as the fruits of Christ's mission and as characteristics 
of his Kingdom, peace, righteousness, justice, freedom, life, 
truth, and indicates that these imply certain corresponding 
objectives for the Christian task in the world the abolition of 
war, the just ordering of society, the suppression of unjust 
discrimination of class and race, the correction of political and 
economic oppression, the furnishing of adequate food in under- 
developed areas, the spread of human knowledge. Obviously, 
such a transfer is available only to someone accepting the Christian 
faith. Nor does the Report seek to create anything beyond an 
ethical attitude. 

5. The Unresolved Tension 

A common ethical attitude, a single perspective for judging 
social problems, proved unattainable at Evanston. The implica- 
tions of eschatology, as adumbrated in the Report of trie Advisory 
Committee, were the subject of what the Statement forwarding 
the document to the member churches called 'sharp differences 
in theological viewpoint'. Deeper than the dissatisfaction 
expressed over the absence of 'buoyancy' in the Report, its 
neglect of the action of the Holy Spirit, its denigration of human 
achievements wrought under the inspiration of hope, its opposition 
of the Church to the world, its omission of the role of Israel in the 
Christian conception of the end of history, was the divergence of 
viewpoint among the delegates oil the consequences of the twin 
assertions of traditional Christian belief: 'He has come' and 'He 
will come again'. The contrast, if not conflict, appeared at the 
opening Plenary Session when two theologians presented, to the 
Assembly the Main Theme of Christian Hope, which, was to be 
the subject of study. Professor Edmund Schlink, Rector of the 
University of Heidelberg, conceded that hope imports 'an active 


concern in the right ordering of society', but he was certain 


If in our thinking about this subject we place the emphasis on the 
preservation of this threatened world, then we shall miss the point 
of our Assembly theme completely. If we expect Christ to insure 
this world so that men may continue undisturbed their pursuit of 
liberty, may carry on their business, and seek an improvement in 
their standard of living, then Christ is not the hope of the world, 

but rather the end of all the world's hopes "We have only to tell 

the world who its Lord already is. It is not up to us to save men. 1 

For Professor Robert Calhoun of Yale University who followed, 
theology, particularly as preached in the American environment, 
furnishes a 'word for this world', a word of present practical 
relevance for a world always in need of renewal. In such a 
conception, the Christian gospel is 

a truly historical word rooted in actual existence and demanding 
present day-by-day response, not a remote ideal nor a way of escape. 
It affirms also, in strenuous if not always well-directed action as well 
as in spoken and written language, the Reformers' insistence that 
this world must be transformed according to the will of God, our 
Creator and Redeemer. Its most characteristic prayer is: 'Thy 
kingdom come, thy will be done on earth.' Its characteristic hope 
looks for the ever clearer manifestation of God's sovereignty and 
the power of His promises in human history. 2 

The Second Assembly of the "World Council of Churches declared: 
"We are not agreed on the relationship between the Christian's 
hope here and now, and his ultimate hope.' 3 

The search for a standard for measuring social problems through 
the insights offered by eschatology will continue in the Ecumen- 
ical Community, since the Advisory Committee's Report was 
forwarded to the member churches 'for their study, prayer and 
encouragement'. The theme suggested, by the phrase of the 
Nicene Creed, 'And He will come again to judge the living and. 
the dead', proved as fruitful in discussion but as unamenable to 

1 H. G. G, Herklots, Looking at Evanston, pp. 28-9. a Ibid,, p. 31. a Evanston, p. 70. 


final conclusions as had the term 'the Kingdom of God' at 
Stockholm. 1 


To estimate with any accuracy the influence of any specific 
individual thinker on the anonymous Reports officially issued 
by the "World Council as expressing its corporate mind is mani- 
festly impossible. It would be, in effect, to endeavour to graph 
in terms of personalities the prevailing forces in the Ecumenical 
Community. Time alone gives the historian the proper pers- 
pective for such a task. Nor for our present purpose is such a 
study indicated: it is the official mind and public speech of the 
World Council by definition a fellowship of churches which 
is under examination. For an understanding, however, of the 
dominant attitudes and the direction of thinking on social 
questions in the World Council a knowledge of the works and 
activities of certain thinkers is undoubtedly valuable. Happily 
several of these men have already been the subject of books and 

i. The Legacy of the Nineteenth Century 

The significance of the radical shift in Protestant theological 
orientation, associated with the name of Karl Earth, can only be 
appreciated against the bequest of the previous century which 
saw forms of Christianity as competing codifications of the 
religious experience of the nations expressing itself in varying 
formulas as the group adjusts itself to new conditions. The 
fashionable conception was compounded of a heritage of German 
Idealism, the philosophy of Progress, the messianism of Socialist 

1 When, at the close of the Stockholm Conference, the question of a Continuation 
Committee was being discussed, Licentiate Erich Stange observed: 'la this Conference 
there has been voiced a double-sided conception of the Kingdom of God, -which no one 
with the catchwords, pessimistic, optimistic, individualistic or social, can dispose of, but 
which touches deeply on the ultimate purpose of the Gospel. We are glad of the frankness 
of our discussion. But we have perhaps missed on the whole the real root of the 
question. Here it seems to me the decisive task for the continuation of the Conference 
lies.' Stockholm, p. 705. 

2 Notably by T. A. Gill, Recent Protestant Political Theory, studying Earth, Stunner and 


movements and the vogue of Positivism as expressed in Utilitar- 
ianism of British origin and Pragmatism of American provenance. 
The stern moralism. stemming from Kant's teaching was small 
substitute for its radical attack on the intellectual and historical 
foundations of the Christian religion. The Kantian act of faith, 
a postulate of Practical Reason to explain the relation of happiness 
and morality, was transmuted by Schleiermacher into a certitude 
accompanying a feeling, a feeling of contact with the Divine 

Schleiermacher' s influence was pervasive and dominant. 1 The 
doctrine of the immanence of God in man disintegrated the 
traditional affirmations of the Christian creeds. The appeal to 
emotional experience as the basis of faith led to attempts to find 
the essential 'meaning' of Christianity as distinguished from 
historical 'accretions' and cultural 'mutations' in its social 
utility. The result was an ethical theism as in Ritschl, content 
with the self-evident Values' for significant living offered by the 
person and teachings of Christ, or a sociologism as in Troeltsch, 
justifying religion by its relation to community needs. Christi- 
anity 'de-Orientalized' was scarcely distinguishable from en- 
lightened common sense emotionally surcharged with a sentiment 
of fraternity. 

Such a mood invited the title 'Protestantism moves towards 
Humanism and Collectivism' in a chapter of a scholarly history 
of ideas in the United States. 2 In its cruder forms such tliinking 
has few contemporary champions. On both sides of the Atlantic 
a new soberness, induced by events as well as by the neo- 
orthodox movement in theology, has cauterized much of the 
ebullience of that sentimental social ethic. In some quarters, to 
be sure, it has its advocates who have not been absent from 
World Council meetings, individuals who (not unlike the 
'German Christians' of the Nazi era) claim to discover religious 
elements in secular revolutionary movements. Their efforts 

1 Professor Jacques Courvoisier of the University of Geneva has observed that 
Schleiermacher's thought became 'la colonne verte"brale du protestantisme', Breve Histoiie 
du Protestantisme, p. 97. 

a Ralph Henry Gabriel, The Course of American Democratic Thought, pp. 308-31. 


appear to confuse Christianity with Sociology and end, in 
conspicuous instances, in politicizing religion, finding a new 
gospel of salvation in the aspirations of the proletariat. The 
conversion to this new gospel has not heen difficult. 1 

Schleiermacher had insisted that 'the Reformation must 
continue'. The developments in the churches of the Reformed 
tradition in the 'thirties took a direction quite contrary to that 
envisaged by the philosopher of religious experience. On the 
Continent it took the form of a mighty protest against all efforts 
to derive Christian truths from an analysis of human aspirations, 
however noble, and a return to the biblical emphasis of the 
Reformation on the absolute sovereignty of God and the essential 
impotence of moral effort to achieve salvation. 2 The prophet of 
the revolution in theology was Karl Barth, though he became more 
of a symbol for a movement than a master of docile disciples. 3 

In the field of the missionary enterprise of the Ecumenical 
Community, as in that of social reform, the same reaction to the 
instrumental conception of Christianity manifested itself. The 
relation of Christianity to the other world-religions, in effect, 
the question of the function of Christian missions, was the issue. 
A Rockefeller-endowed survey, chaired by Harvard's dis- 
tinguished philosopher, Professor W. E. Hocking, concluded 
that Christianity is merely the highest of the High Religions, a 
stage in the universal quest for 'righteousness', a precious com- 
ponent of the religion of the future that will represent the 'New 
Testament of every existing Faith' and serve as the soul of a 
corning common world culture. The Report, Rethinking Missions: 

1 Cf., for example, Leonard M. Outerbndge, The Lost Churches of China. 

2 The emphasis of Pascal is also echoed: 'La foi chre'tienne ne va principalement qu'i 
6tabhr ces deux choses, la corruption de la nature et la redemption de Jesus Christ.' 
Pensfas No. i. 

8 The movement in Europe is described by Professor Emil Brunner in the chapter he 
contributed to the Festschrift honouring William Adams Brown, President of the Union 
Theological Seminary, The Church Through Haifa Century, edited by H. P. VanDusen and 
S. McC. Cavert. Its repercussions in the United States are indicated in the symposium, 
Protestant Thought in the Twentieth Century, edited by Arnold S. Nash, passim since all 
the disciplines in the field of theological studies are examined in separate chapters. A more 
popular presentation of the content and the influence of the revolution in theological 
emphasis is Dr. Adolf Keller's Karl Barth and Christian Unity. 


A Layman's Inquiry After One Hundred Years, concluded that the 
missionary effort, therefore, should welcome the values of other 
faiths, contribute the spiritual resources of Western civilization 
through education and medical clinics, rather than by evangeliza- 
tion, serving always the emerging world culture. The answer 
appeared in another book, The Christian Message in a Non- 
Christian World, prepared for the Madras Conference of the 
International Missionary Council by Dr. Hendrik Kraemer, 
subsequently Director of the World Council's Ecumenical 
Institute. This disciple of Barth insisted that Christianity is not 
a product of the evolution of human values but the affirmation 
of the effects of historical events, not so much a religion as a 
revelation unpossessed and unattainable by humanity until 
communicated by God through Christ and disseminated to the 
nations by missionaries. 1 

2. Karl Barth 

As a specialist in dogmatics the Basle theologian has not 
concerned himself with the World Council's analyses of social 
and political problems. At the Amsterdam Assembly he chose to 
participate in. the session of the Committee discussing the role 
of women in the Church; he was not present at Evanstoii. Barth's 
unremitting insistence, however, that Christianity is not a 
movement of social reform but a settling of accounts between 
sinful man and bis Maker has played a decisive, if negative, part 
in the outlook of the World Council even on social questions. 
His theological emphasis and not least the appeal and force of his 
character have been a constant reminder that political pre- 
occupations have their place, but a subordinate place, in the 
Christian vision of the world. Freely invoked, particularly in 

1 The former ideas 'of recommending Christianity as the bringer of enlightenment 
and freedom, as a capital national and social tonic to make powerful nations, as the 
infallible guide to progress, has come to naught. . , . Sharing religious experiences, even 
service to men, "christianizing" the social, economic and political order, though 
necessarily included in the Irving act of manifold missionary expression, cannot be the 
real motive and ultimate purpose. The real motive and ultimate puipose are not founded 
in anything that man or civilizations or societies call for. As Kagawa has said, the 
starting-point of missions is the divine commission to proclaim the Lordship of Christ 
over all life.' The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World, pp. 59-60. 


ckcles on the Continent (including East Europe), his message is 
commonly translated as a warning against confusing the gospel 
with any existing social structures. His constant admonition 
against identifying the Kingdom of God with political pro- 
grammes and economic expedients, however, are regularly 
repeated in World Council discussions on social topics. On the 
other hand, his message has not helped appreciably in the difficult 
task of indicating which precisely are the things that belong to 
Caesar and which to God nor in discovering to what positive tasks 
the State should address itself. 

Barth himself as a young man had shared the idealism of liberal 
Christianity. A former pupil of Harnack, he had served on the 
staff of a liberal review, Die Christliche Welt, before accepting a 
pastorate in a tiny Swiss village. His weekly pulpit obligation 
brought to light the thinness of the doctrinal assumptions of his 
teachers and confronted him with an imperiously felt personal 
need to think through the foundations of the Christian faith. 
Almost a century before, a young Dane had struggled with the 
meaning of Christianity and had opted for an uncompromising 
position which Barth was to make influential in a 'Time of 
Troubles'. S0ren Kierkegaard confided to his diary: 

I have often said that Christianity can be presented in two ways: 
either in the interest of man (an extenuating adjustment) or in the 

interest of God (true Christianity) Christianity is not a little 

moralizing and a few articles of faith; Christianity is the reckoning 
between God and the world. And now, long after Christianity has, 
as it is expressed, conquered and deposited a culture, Christianity 
and the world are so mixed up that die question must be expressed 
once again in a new potency: is Christianity of God or of man? . . . 
My very humble work is: to make people aware. I admit that 
I dare do nothing more yet I am a cry of alarm. 1 

Kierkegaard had insisted that between man's purposes in history 
and God's purposes in eternity there is 'an infinite cnialitative 
difference'. Barth agreed, proclaiming the total liberty of God 
whose message transcends all the categories of human reason 

1 Journals, edited by Alexander Dru (Oxford: Humphrey Milford, 1939), No. 1192. 


and whose nature is discoverable neither by earnest introspection 
nor by measuring humanity's achievements but only by listening 
to His Word. 

Beginning with the publication of his Commentary on the 
Epistle to the Romans in 1918, Earth's influence spread rapidly, 
growing as he occupied successively Professorships at Gottingen, 
Munster and Bonn and spoke out boldly against Nazism. God, 
he proclaimed, is ganz anders: the ultimate blasphemy is the 
arrogant assumption that He stands in need of human defenders, 
that the triumph of His Will awaits the perfectioning of human 
systems. It is by faith not works that the sinful individual is 
saved, he repeated in tones recalling Calvin and Luther; one can 
speak of saving society only by listing the incidental effect of the 
activity of the community of those who heed God's Word. Not 
by elaborating systems of ethics but by a total surrender to His 
Lordship does the Christian play his appointed part in a world 
where all is relative. 

He insisted that he was not himself 'a Barthian' and it is true 
that many who rallied to his lead calling for a return to the 
fundamental principles of the Reform did not follow him in all 
his dogmatic positions; others had marked reservations on what 
they judged the defeatism of his ethical teaching. 1 In various 
accents the Barthian emphasis was sounded by Oscar Cullmann, 
Rudolf Bultmann, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, and across the 
ocean by Reinhold Niebuhr, the leader of 'the shift to the Left 
politically and to the Right theologically' in American Protes- 
tantism. 2 Barth's thought developed, became more organic and 

1 'But the Christian faith, which can easily degenerate into a too simple moralism, 
may also degenerate into a too simple determinism when the divine grace is regarded 
as a way of escape from, rather than a source of engagement with, the anxieties, per- 
plexities, sins and pretensions of human existence.' Reinhold Niebuhr, 'We are Men, 
not God,' Christian Century ixv (October 27, 1948), 43, p. 1140. 

a The publication of Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society in 1932 marked a turning- 
point, unsuspected at the time, in American Protestant thought. When Time magazine, 
publishing its Silver Jubilee issue, wished to survey the change in the American scene 
over twenty-five years, it devoted its cover-story to Niebuhr. Niebuhr's thought is 
popularly presented by an English admirer, D, R. Davies, in Reinhold Niebuhr, Prophet 
from America; a good idea of the movement of neo-Protestantism in all its phases connected 
with his name and influence can be gathered in reading John A. Hutchinson (ed.) Christian 
Faith and Social Action. 


(though he would perhaps resent the term) more humane over 
the years. His original impact was that of a prophet and he 
acknowledges his surprise at the widespread reception that 
greeted his ideas: 'When I look backwards on the road I have 
travelled, I seem to be like a man who was climbing the 
bell-tower of a church in the darkness. Instead of grasping the 
railing, he caught hold of the bell rope. To his great astonish- 
ment, the great bell began to toll and the whole world heard its 
pealing.' 1 

3. Stunner and Temple 

A more comprehensive consideration of the social philosophies 
influential in the World Council's constituency would surely 
include analysis of Emil Bruimer's Gerechtigkeit. Calvinist and 
humanist at once, Brunner's thought is marked by a sturdy sense 
of realism, a generous openness to truth wherever found and an 
impressive knowledge of history. Reference might perhaps be 
made to the doctrine of Christian Sociology elaborated by 
Anglican writers like Maurice B. Reckitt and V. A. Demant. 
The decline of influence of this school may be judged from the 
disappearance of the British review, Christendom, and the con- 
centration of ecumenical circles in England on the practical 
programme proposed by the Labour Party after the war. Such 
Anglican thinkers as Reckitt and Demant find fruitful social 
implications in the central dogma of the Incarnation: In Christ 
human and divine natures are joined in one Person, thus offering 
a pattern for resolving the tension between the personality and 
the community; His action, incorporating redeemed humanity 
into a new Society of which He is the Head, confers on the 
Christian community the authority of declaring from its intrinsic 
principles the proper ends of economic activity, social institutions 
and international relations, and of announcing that its members 
are pledged to these goals and no others. 

In addition to those of the Christendom group, two other 

1 ProldgomZnes a la Dogtnatique, as quoted by W. A. Visser 't Hooft, Introduction & 
Karl Barth, p. 5, 


Englishmen must be included. Joseph H. Oldham, who contri- 
buted so much to the Oxford Conference of 1937 and to the Study 
preparations for the Amsterdam Assembly, was interested more 
in the cultural problems of modern society than in its economic 
institutions. Infirmities and advancing age prevented him from 
developing for the Evanston Assembly a theme of characteristic 
interest, the philosophy of work with all its attendant problems 
of making daily occupations meaningful in an industrialized age. 
If the reproach of a certain literary academism could be made 
against Oldham, of an enthusiasm for the prevailing preoccupa- 
tions of the critics of contemporary culture, the same could not 
be said of "William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, and at 
his death Chairman of the Provisional Committee of the World 
Council of Churches. A skilled organizer and gifted presiding 
officer, Archbishop Temple was a student of social philosophy 
who did not hesitate to make applications to existing conditions. 
He inspired the war-time Malvern Conference which debated a 
basic revision of England's economic institutions. His best-selling 
1942 'Penguin', Christianity and Social Order, concluded with a 
concrete programme of national legislation, premised by the 
assertion: 'Our aim must be to plan efficiently for the maximum 
of freedom/ His untimely death deprived the World Council 
not only of a thinker with a genuine interest in the problems of 
social justice, but one with an understanding of the Natural Law 
system of social thought and an appetite for facts as the necessary 
preHminary to any viable solution. 

4. Niebuhr and Bennett 

Certainly ample place would have to be made for the contri- 
butions of Reinhold Niebuhr whose thought has formed the 
younger generation of Americans active in the World Council's 
social inquiries and whose influence on Europeans is considerable. 1 
Indeed one might illustrate the evolution of religious thought in 

1 Thus, Dr. C L. Patijn, Chief of the office of Economic Affairs of Holland's Ministry 
of Foreign Affairs, Chairman of the Section on political and economic questions at both 
the Amsterdam and the Evanston Assemblies, told the author that in social theory he 
favours Niebuhr. 


the United States by recalling that the five Americans invited to 
give the GifFord Lectures at the University of Edinburgh founded 
in the last century to defend the proofs for the existence of 
God have been William James, Josiah Royce, John Dewey, 
William E. Hocking and Reinhold Niebuhr. 1 The first four 
could certainly not be suspected of accepting any traditional 
Christian affirmations. It was Reinhold Niebuhr who marked 
the return towards orthodoxy in American theology. Niebuhr 
is against abstract and general programmes of ethics as inapplicable 
to the ambiguous character of man's life in modern society. 
He counsels the acceptance of approximations of justice that 
take into account the fallibility of human knowledge and the 
more than dubious purity of human intentions. The law of love 
is, to be sure, the ultimate standard of moral rectitude but, 
by itself, it results in an idealistic ethic with small relevance 
for the implacable involvements of modern life. The law of 
self-love, on the other hand, is a permanent and persistent factor 
of history, marring the desired harmony of man's social relation- 
ships. It remains, nevertheless, a power to be acknowledged, 
accepted, 'used, beguiled, harnessed and deflected for the ultimate 
end of estabhshing the highest and most inclusive possible com- 
munity of justice and order'. 2 

One of Niebuhr's closest associates, his successor at Columbia 
University's Union Theological School, is John C. Bennett, 
whose association with the organized Ecumenical Community's 
study of social questions dates from the Oxford Conference of 
1937 -when, as a young professor, he was charged with the 
responsibilities of research preparations in the United States. 
Secretary of Section III at Amsterdam, he was so identified with 
the work of the Evanston Section on the Responsible Society 
that the right-wing Press, disliking his political liberalism and 
economic preferences, warned against 'Bennettism', undoubtedly 
to the huge amusement of an essentially modest man. Professor 
Bennett's predilection is for a mixed economy, a Third Way, 

1 David "Wesley Soper, Major Voices in American Theology, p. 46. 
3 Christian Faith and Social Action, p. 241. 


which in practice would resemble the social policies he finds 
represented in the British Labour Party. In social thought he 
favours the use of 'middle axioms', universally accepted moral 
truths, as providing the starting-point for deductions in discussions 
of questions of justice. His social philosophy is adumbrated in a 
series of public lectures published under the title, Christian Ethics 
and Social Policy. 

5. Two Basic Principles of Ecumenical Social Philosophy 

From a consideration of these several philosophical and 
theological approaches, from an examination of the different 
confessional emphases extant in the World Council's constituency, 
is it possible to discover any common principles supporting its 
declarations on social problems? 

A recent survey of theological trends counts five operative 
ethical traditions. The author is convinced, however, that these 
various traditions converge on 'two complementary principles 
which follow direcdy from the attempt to see human life in the 
light of Christ', the personal principle and the social principle. 1 

These two principles certainly underlie all the analyses and 
motivate all the judgments in the World Council's pronounce- 
ments on economic conditions and international relations. 
Behind the divergences of social philosophies in the World 
Council constituency there is a common and insistent emphasis: 
human society is responsible to rules it has not made, it moves 
towards goals given to it from without and is judged by norms 
it cannot change. 

1 'One is the personal principle. This means the supreme evaluation which Christian 
faith puts upon personal existence. Every person is created for a life of dignity and 
fellowship in the grace of God's eternal purpose. . . . The social principle means that persons 
are created "members one of another" as the New Testament says. We exist in a social 
relationship with God, our Creator, and we are created for and in a community of life 
with one another. It is especially important to see that these two principles, the personal 
and the social, belong absolutely together.' Daniel Day Williams, Interpreting Theology, 
1918-1952, pp. 69-70. 




THE human race is accustomed to being told by religious authori- 
ties that the world is in a bad way. Decrying the trend of the 
times is commonly considered by modern man as a professional 
preoccupation of ecclesiastics. In the summer of 1948, however, 
there was no thoughtful person prepared to dispute the judgment: 
'The world today is experiencing a social crisis of unparalleled 
proportions.' The pronouncement which opened the Amsterdam 
Assembly's Report on 'The Church and the Disorder of Society' 
seemed almost platitudinous. In such straits, with such mute 
awareness of something radically wrong with the world, there 
was reasonable hope that even the non-religious observer would 
lend courteous attention to the analysis of social ills offered by 
the World Council of Churches. 

i. Preparations for Amsterdam 

It will be useful, before scrutinizing the positions on social and 
international problems taken by the World Council, to examine 
the process whereby these judgments were formulated. In fact 
it was to a most general audience that the Amsterdam Assembly's 
Section III addressed its Report, diagnosing the errors and 
indicating its recommendations for social reconstruction and 
regeneration. 1 The phrasing of the Report was the responsibility 

1 In presenting The Message of the Assembly at a plenary meeting on. September 3, 
Bishop Berggrav explained that it was 'more like a pastoral letter to fellow-Christians' 
and distinguished it from the Reports of the Sections which contained what the Assembly 
had to say to the world. Amsterdam, p. 44. 


of a Drafting Committee of eleven men, drawn from a Section 
composed of some eighty delegates who met six times. With 
quite minor modifications by the membership of the Section, 
die text was phrased by a Drafting Committee almost exactly 
divided between laymen and ordained ecclesiastics. Represented 
on the Committee were four members of churches of the 
Reformed tradition, three from the Anglican tradition, two from 
Free Churches, a Lutheran and an Orthodox; five from con- 
tinental Europe, three from the USA, two from England and 
an Indian. 1 

The Report, the fruit of three years of ecumenical conversation, 
was substantially written before the Assembly convened. It was, 
in fact, largely a summary of a symposium of essays distributed 
to Sectional delegates in page-proofs, a volume whose lines of 
major emphasis had been settled at a meeting of the World 
Council's Study Commission at Cambridge, England, in August 
1946, and progressively defined at two subsequent meetings held 
in June 1947 and August 1948, and through extensive corres- 
pondence by those primarily charged to write the final Report. 

From the outset it had been decided that the diagnosis of the 
disorder of society would centre on two crystallizing ideas: 
' (a) the breakdown of personal relationships and the disintegration 
of family life, etc., as being the ultimate factor in the disintegration 
of society, and (b) the pervasive influence of the machine with its 
implications for good or ill.' 2 The responsibility of the churches 
for the disorder of society was to be frankly acknowledged and 
unabashedly detailed as resulting from the irrelevance of their 

1 The Drafting Committee was composed of 1 (Chairman) Dr. Constantijn L. Patijn 
(Dutch Reformed Church), (Seaetary) Professor John. C. Bennett (Congregational- 
Christian Churches of USA), Professor Emil Brunner (Swiss Protestant Federation), 
Canon V. A. Demant (Church of England), Sir Walter Moberly (Church of England), 
Professor Demetnos Moraite (Church of Greece), Professor Barnabas Nagy (Reformed 
Church of Hungary), Professor Remhold Niebuhr (Evangehcal and Reformed Church), 
Mr George V. Job (Church of South India), Professor Constantin von Dietze (Evangelical 
Church in Germany), Mr. Charles P. Taft (Protestant Episcopal Church, USA). 

2 Dr. Nils Ehrenstrom at Bossey, June 24, 1947. Archives, The studies of Professor 
David Riesman of the University of Chicago on the causes and manifestations of social 
change make a concentration on technics appear somewhat narrow. Cf. his The Lonely 
Crowd, Faces in the Crowd and Individualism Reconsidered. 


theological teaching and the apathy or involvement of their 
institutional behaviour. It was finally felt apposite to call attention 
to promising developments, new beginnings of the relations of 
churches of different lands to contemporary society. This early 
conception of the scope of the future Assembly's Section on 
economic, political and cultural disorder was maintained through 
successive rearrangements of the material of the background 
volume and despite inevitable disappointments. Thus it proved 
impossible to obtain reports on the situation in the Soviet Union 
or Eastern Europe, though provision had been made for contri- 
butions 011 Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia. The chapter 
analysing the social ills of Africa did not arrive. Conflicting 
explanations of the disturbed Asian scene suggested the solution 
of providing two accounts. The diagnoses of European and 
American contemporary civilizations, originally planned as the 
work of groups on each continent, were ultimately written in 
each case by a single author. An essay of impressive length, 
analysing the impact of technics on social living, was found to 
contain a pregnant adumbration of the outline of a social order 
satisfying Christian requirements and was, accordingly, divided 
into two chapters. All of this material was subjected to close 
scrutiny and repeated discussion through the circulation of the 
papers to interested individuals in the Ecumenical Community 
and at two full-scale meetings of the Study Commission in the 
three years before the Assembly convened. The majority of the 
members of the future Drafting Committee of Amsterdam's 
Section III participated in these discussions and were in a position 
to incorporate the common conception of the disorder of con- 
temporary society and its remedy in the language of the Report. 
Indeed the authors of the paragraphs in die Report covering 
particular topics were in most cases those who had discussed the 
same themes in the symposium. 

The eighty delegates to the Amsterdam Assembly who had 
asked to be assigned to the Section discussing 'The Church and 
the Disorder of Society', had for their guidance a background 
volume containing the following chapters: 


1. An Introduction, written by Reinhold Niebuhr, delineating 
the social confusion of the times and the relation of the Christian 
Church to the crisis of our age. 

2. 'Technics and Civilization', a chapter by J. H. Oldham out- 
lining the effects of the machine and the scientific method on 
modern society, and the points of conflict with the Christian 
conception of man and his destiny. 

3. 'The Situation in Europe', by Jacques Ellul. 

4. 'The Situation in Asia T, by M. Searle Bates. 

5. 'The Situation in Asia II', by M. M. Thomas. 

6. 'The Situation in USA', by Reinhold Niebuhr. 

7. 'Personal Relations in a Technical Society', an outline by 
Kathleen Bliss of how modern conditions affect the relations between 
the sexes, between generations, between neighbours. 

8. 'The Involvement of the Church', by John C. Bennett. 

9. 'New Beginnings in the Relations of the Church with Society', 
a report of Christian-inspired experiments of social transformation 
compiled by E. C. Urwin. 

10. 'A Responsible Society', by J. H. Oldham. 

11. 'The Strategy of the Church', chiefly an exposition of the 
economic and political problems to be faced, by C. L. Patijn. 

12. 'And Now?', a conclusion by Emil Brunner. 

The Report, produced by the Drafting Committee, approved 
by Section III and 'received unanimously by the Assembly and 
commended to the churches for their serious consideration and 
appropriate action' was a statement of six divisions, twenty-nine 
paragraphs in all. The divisions were: 

1. 'The Disorder of Society', composed by Reinhold Niebuhr 
with a paragraph on the involvement of the churches by John C. 

2. 'Economic and Political Organization', drafted by C. L. 
Patijn, apart from a paragraph asserting the incapacity of the Church 
to arbitrate the debate on whether socialism is a solution or a 
menace, written by Reinhold Niebuhr. 

3. 'The Responsible Society', the definition being that of Sir 
Walter Moberly with other paragraphs by C. L. Patijn. 

4. 'Communism and Capitalism', six paragraphs written by 
John Bennett with suggestions from Professor Nagy and Dr. Patijn. 


5. 'The Social Function of the Church', the language being 
Professor Bennett's save for a paragraph on Christian political 
parties by Dr. Patijn. 

6. 'Conclusion', a final paragraph composed by Professor Bennett. 
The authors of the Report were, it is evident, the principal 

collaborators in the preparatory study (apart from Oldham 
whose health was impaired) and the dominant minds of the 
Study Commission of Section III. They had moved past the 
generous generalities of the Stockholm Conference of 1925 
which concluded that the problems it has considered in 'our 
friendly discussions' 

are so grave that they cannot be solved by individual effort alone, 
but that the community must accept responsibility for them, and 
must exercise such social control over individual action as in each 
instance may be necessary for the common good. 1 

The Amsterdam authors were the heirs of the Oxford Conference 
of 1937 which conceived of the Church as an organized com- 
munity with a corporate responsibility and a specific function in 
the field of economic activity and political life. 2 

The Oxford emphasis had called for competent study and 
research in the economic sphere, laity and clergy co-operating 
in an effort of analysis; it had concluded that to change the 
economic order 'Christians must be prepared to take sides and 
participate in political and other forms of group action,.' The 
Amsterdam studies had disengaged a fruitful idea, that of the 
Responsible Society, one calculated to catalyse positive and 
practical suggestions in line with the 'new creative solutions' 
called for in the Section III Report, economic and political 
arrangements which would harmonize the competing and often 
conflicting claims of justice and freedom. 

1 Stockholm, p. 712. 

2 'The Christian message should deal with ends, in the sense of long-range goals, 
standards, and principles, in the light of which every concrete situation, and every proposal 
for improving it, must he tested. . . . [It] should throw a searchlight on the actual facts of 
the existing situation, and in particular reveal the human consequences of present forms of 
economic behaviour. . . . [It] should make clear the obstacles to economic justice in the 
human heart, and especially those that are present in the hearts of people within the 
Church.' Oxford, p. 90. 


2. Preparations for Evanston 

After the Amsterdam Assembly the Chairman of the Study 
Department felt that 'we are not lacking in theory, in the articula- 
tion of fundamental principles'. The time had come, he told the 
World Council's Central Committee in 1949, to redress the 
balance in emphasis between theory and practice. Accordingly, 
an inquiry, 'Christian Action in Society', containing two themes, 
'The Responsible Society' and 'The Meaning of Work*, was set 
on foot. The Secretary of the World Council's Department on 
Church and Society acknowledged that the project doubtless 
seemed pretentious. 1 

Ultimately at Evanston the 'Meaning of Work' theme, broad- 
ened to a consideration of the essential significance of all so-called 
'secular' occupations and professions, occupied a Section entitled 
'The Laity the Christian in his Vocation'. Concrete social 
issues were assigned to the Section 'The Responsible Society in a 
World Perspective', charged to pursue the line of approach 
opened at Amsterdam. In a preliminary outline of the subject- 
matter of the Section the issues were listed under six headings: 
(a) The Role of the State in Economic Life and its Limits; 
(&) The Place of the Worker in Modern Industry and the Role of 
Organized Labour in Modern Society; (c) The Place of the 
Business Man in Modern Society; (d) The Economic and Social 
Development of the Under-developed Countries; (e] The 
Economic Responsibilities of the West; (J) The Responsibility 
of the Member-Churches in Relation to the Challenge of 

As background for the discussions of the Assembly Sections at 
Evanston, a series of booklets was edited. The sixty-five-page 

1 'To many realistic people it may seem paradoxical that the churches of the "World 
Council should launch a new inquiry on Christian Action in Society at a time when the 
likelihood of any effective action appears so uncertain. . . . The great complexity of 
economic and social life today, the comprehensive character of the problems which 
confront men and which frequently seem beyond human control, and the strength of the 
forces of evil makes the possibility of significant improvements in community life seem 
slighter than ever before. In addition, the atmosphere of ill-will, suspicion and hatred 
which pervades the whole world has resulted in a feeling of despair about social change, 
especially in the West.' Paul Abrecht in ER n (Winter 1950), 2, p. 141. 


summary, reporting recent thought and activity of the churches 
in the social field, prepared for the Section on 'The Responsible 
Society', was reviewed by its Preparatory Commission in draft 
form during the planning meetings at Begnins, August 11-19, 
1953, and put in definitive form by the Study Department's 
permanent staff in nearby Geneva. 1 Compiled from, descriptions 
of facts and trends supplied by ecumenical groups in different 
countries, 2 the Survey note that profound social changes present 
the Ecumenical Community with the need of fresh analyses as 
well as new tasks and opportunities. Laissez-faire capitalism, it was 
observed, is being replaced by the social welfare State while 
socialism on the other hand is reconsidering its basic principles. 
A fundamental rethinking of the goals of political and economic 
life was said to be occurring with the debate moving from the 
sterilities of comparing 'isms' to the more fruitful examination 
of actual social change, its causes and consequences. Moreover, the 
current argument in the Ecumenical Community was described 
as being not so much 'as in the past whether the Church has a 
responsibility in society but what precisely that responsibility is 
and how it can be realized'. The duty of Christians to seek what 
Amsterdam called 'new, creative solutions' to contemporary 
economic and political problems, to work for the construction 
of the Responsible Society, was not contested by any sizeable 
segment of the Ecumenical Community. Nevertheless, the 
Evanston Survey reported, 'there is also great apathy and in- 
difference in the Church concerning social issues'. Tentative 
explanation of this situation was found in three factors: (a) the 
lack of a vital faith providing fresh theological insights illuminat- 
ing the human predicament today and engendering a new 
determination to struggle for the renewal of society; (&) the new 
social situation in most countries, making outmoded familiar 
analyses in terms of 'isms' and presenting new problems for 
Christian social thought; (c) the world dimensions of social 
problems, implying a bewildering variety and an enormous 

1 And included in the book, The Christian Hope and the Task of the Churches. 
a These reports are scheduled for publication in a symposium tentatively entitled, 
National Developments in Christian Social Thinking. 


disparity in the problems confronting the Ecumenical Com- 
munity, a complexity that discourages effort. 

The changed situation suggested to the editors of the Survey 
four contemporary tasks which the churches everywhere must 
undertake: (a) the development of common convictions 
regarding the structure of political and economic life, the elabora- 
tion of a common ethos, the construction of a social philosophy, 
whatever its basis, which will provide criteria for judging con- 
temporary social problems; (b) a re-examination of strategy to 
discover how the social function of the churches can most 
effectively be achieved; (c) the exposition of the basis of Christian 
hope, giving meaning to the world's search for more freedom, 
security, justice and the social and economic institutions for 
realizing them; (d) an emphasis on the responsibility of the 
churches to the economically and technically underdeveloped 
countries experiencing a social revolution. 

The Preparatory Commission for Evanston's Section on the 
Responsible Society met twice before the Assembly, the session 
of August 1953 producing a memorandum to promote discussion 
on the topic in the churches. The delegates and consultants of the 
Section, numbering nearly one hundred, when they began their 
consideration of the subject at Evanston, expressed the conviction 
that an important subject had been neglected in the memorandum 
and working paper: the place of the family in the Responsible 
Society. The selection of the theme of the family by the 1953 
German Kirchentag had given the subject new prominence in the 
Ecumenical Community. 

To be sure, a wide range of subjects was broached at the Section 
meetings, manifesting the preoccupation of the delegates with 
the issues especially affecting their particular homelands and 
indicating their political orientation and ethical attitudes. It was 
the task of the Drafting Committee to harmonize these views 
and interests in a document which, as the expression of the 
consensus of the Section, could be submitted to the Assembly to 
be received as an official Report of the Second Assembly of the 
World Council of Churches and commended to the member 


churches for their study and appropriate action. The Secretary's 
Minutes indicate that the Drafting Committee was composed of 
nineteen members (including one woman), five from the United 
States and Canada, three from Asia, the rest Europeans; according 
to confessional allegiance the Committee was composed of five 
members from Reformed churches, five from the Free Church 
or United Church tradition, four Lutherans, four from the 
Anglican Communion and one Orthodox. 1 

3. The Issues at Evanston 

The Drafting Committee was mindful of its mandate to 
indicate the relevance of the Main Theme of Christian Hope to 
its conclusions and did so in a brief introduction of affirmation 
that avoided the division of theological opinion on the implications 
of eschatology. An effort was made to clarify and deepen the 
term 'the Responsible Society' which was defined as a 'criterion' 
of judgment but was frequently used as synonymous with the 
satisfactory concrete social order which the Christian must work 
to achieve. Doctrinaire debates over social and political categories 
were recognized as fruitless in view of the changes in economic 
organization in different countries. These changes, it was noted, 
occasioned new problems involving the interplay of government, 
private enterprise and organized groups. In consequence the 
nature and function of the contemporary State was re-examined 
and, with the developments and dangers since the Oxford 
Conference of 1937 in mind, new judgments were framed. 
Conceding the importance of managerial skills and aware of the 

1 Members were: Professor John C. Bennett, USA, Congregational; Rev. Dr. Eugene 
C. Blake, USA, Presbyterian; Professor Panayotis Bratsiotis, Greece, Church of Greece; 
Rev. Joshua R. Chandran, India, Church of South India; Mrs. Kiyo Takeda Chou, 
Japan, Church of Christ; Rev. S. B. Coles, Canada, Presbyterian; Professor Dr. Egbert 
de Vnes, The Netherlands, Protestant Church in Indonesia; Mrs. Rosamond Fisher, UK, 
Church of England; Rev. Canon Hugh G. G. Herklots, UK, Church of England; Mr. 
Peter K. Ledig, Germany, Evangelical, Dean Walter G. Muelder, USA, Methodist; 
Mr. Denys L. Munby, UK, Episcopal Church of Scotland; Dr. Constantijn Patyn, The 
Netherlands, Dutch Reformed; Bishop Janos P6ter, Hungary, Reformed Church of 
Hungary; Bishop Enrique C. Sobrepena, Philippines, United Church of -Christ; Professor 
Neils H. Soe, Denmark, Lutheran, Mr. Charles P. Taft, USA, Protestant Episcopal; 
Professor Constantin Von Dietze, Germany, Evangelical 


place of production as well as distribution in any economic 
system, the Section was, nevertheless, uneasy about some phases 
of modern social organization: its appeal to the acquisitive spirit, 
its great contrasts between rich and poor, its rivalry of occupa- 
tional pressure groups neglectful of the common good, and 
its national particularism forgetful of the effects of domestic 
trade policies on other countries, particularly underdeveloped 

The question of the tensions resulting from the conflicts 
between communist and non-communist societies was considered 
by Evanston's Section III, not as an issue of international order 
but as a problem of the immediate duties of the Christian living 
in either type of society. The subject, relates the editor of the 
official edition of the Evanston Reports, 'provoked remarkably 
little debate and agreement was readily reached'. 1 The Section 
concluded its Report with a consideration of the problems of 
economically underdeveloped regions which demand inter- 
national action and involve the interest of all the churches. 
Choosing the points raised at the Lucknow Ecumenical Study 
Conference of December 1952, the Evanston Report called 
attention to the need of developing viable political institutions 
corresponding to Asian and African traditions and capable of 
controlling the needed social and economic revolution in pro- 
gress; land reform and rural development were underscored as of 
capital importance; the need of a balanced industrial development 
to raise standards of living was signalized; population pressure 
on resources was listed as a burning question; the responsibility 
of interdependence, with new national States proud of their 
sovereignty and needed foreign capital hesitant to invest without 
specific guarantees, was deemed a theme for definition and 

1 The four points of agreement were indicated as: '(a) To reaffirm the statement of 
Amsterdam about the points of conflict between Christian faith and totalitarian com- 
munism; (6) to call attention to the strong appeal of communism in particular areas of 
Asia, Latin America, Africa and Europe where there is a deep desire for social justice; 
(c) to stress the dangers of an attitude of hysterical fear of communism and of over- 
emphasizing the military aspect in the defence against communist power; (d) to emphasize 
the need for Christians in communist and non-communist countries to hold each other 
in special brotherly concern and prayer across all barriers.' Evanston Speaks, p. 44. 


general acceptance, if bitterness and frustration are to be avoided 
in the advance of underdeveloped regions. 

A single item in the Report on the Responsible Society was 
changed after its presentation to the full Assembly. By a narrow 
vote the Evanstoii delegates preferred to specify, among the 
points in need of social change, 'a stronger regard for equity in 
the distribution of wealth and income'. With whatever implica- 
tions of political preferences and predilections, the Drafting 
Committee had opted for a larger measure of 'equality'. 

Early reaction to the Evanston Report on Social Questions 
indicated that it was considered a 'balanced and unpartisan 
judgment'. 1 It was undoubtedly planned as such. While the 
importance of the family was stressed, caution was expressed 
against family egotism hindering social responsibility. The need 
of State initiative and international organization in the develop- 
ment of economic life was recognized, but warning was issued 
against the union of political and economic power producing 
an all-controlling State. Former criticism of monopolistic and 
irresponsible business practices was not withdrawn but contri- 
butions of the skilled executive and the incentives for responsible 
initiative and hard work provided by the business system and 
resulting in economic progress were freely conceded. Trade 
unions and professional associations were welcomed but their 
responsibility to the whole of society was emphasized. The 
double danger of communism and anti-communism was under- 
scored and the complex problems of competing interests in the 
social revolutions of the underdeveloped countries were indicated. 

The delegates to Evanston and their fellow church-members 
who studied the fruits of the discussions of the Second Assembly 
of the World Council of Churches on the political and economic 
issues of the hour should have had no illusions that the con- 
struction of the Responsible Society was a simple task. Indeed 
they were warned: 'In all these fields, the real dangers are com- 
placency, lack of imagination and the dull sense of hopelessness 
that settles upon those of little faith.' 

1 For example, the editorial in the Christian Century ixxi (September 22, 1954). 38, 
pp. iiaaff. 



'One social era is passing away and. a new one is being born'; 
with, these words the delegates to the World Council's Second 
Assembly were alerted in a preparatory study. 1 The causes of 
this Vast social upheaval' and its particular manifestations were 
not of essential concern, to the Evanston Assembly as they had 
been at Amsterdam. Evanston, it might be said, proposed, to deal 
with the issues in the political and economic realms rather than 
with the ills besetting the world.. Its declared interest was with 
the new tasks and opportunities for Christian witness in the social 
order. The approach was possibly more profitable. However, 
the analysis by the organized Ecumenical Community in 1948 of 
what it termed the 'social crisis of unparalleled proportions' has 
at the very least an historical interest, and yields profitable 
insights of the points of view then current in the World Council 

i. The Amsterdam Diagnosis: Moral Inertia in the Machine Age 

The Amsterdam Assembly's Section III found that the deepest 
cause of contemporary social disorder 'is the refusal of men to 
see and admit that their responsibility to God stands over and above 
their loyalty to any earthly community and their obedience to 
any worldly power'. The Christian faith, the Report declared, 
provided at once a personal certainty sufficient to surmount all 
temptations to apathy, irresponsibility and despair and a divine 
command 'to overcome the specific disorders which aggravate 
the perennial evil in human society'. Two chief factors contri- 
buting to the contemporary crisis were indicated. Attention was 
first called to the vast concentrations of economic and political 
power which magnify individual and group greed, pride and 
cruelty and by their sheer inertia diminish the ability of modern 
man to act as a moral and accountable being. The dominance of 

1 CHTC, p. 3. The marks of this social change were noted as 'the decline of old social 
and economic ideologies and institutions, the social effects of continued rapid technical 
change, the complete shake-up of old patterns of life in Asia, Africa and Latin America, 
the increasing economic and political interdependence of nations and the effects of the 
continuing struggle hetween communist and non-communist countries'. Ibid. 


technics was signalized as another factor. While relieving men 
and women of much drudgery and poverty, providing channels 
of commtinication between distant peoples and improving the 
physical health of mankind, technological developments were 
found to be accompanied by a mechanization of life, an unbalanced 
economy, the wasting of natural resources, war, and 'the under- 
mining of the natural foundations of society in family, neighbour- 
hood and craft'. Technology, however, it was believed, can be 
controlled and 'the Christian Church has an urgent responsibility 
today to help men to achieve fuller personal life within the 
technical society'. The fulfilment of that responsibility, in the 
judgment of the Amsterdam Report, will be reparation for past 
failings. For, despite the presence of Christians in movements of 
social reform, the churches must plead guilty, it was conceded, 
of having favoured the privileged classes, of having concentrated 
on purely spiritual or individualistic interpretations of the Gospel 
or of having missed the meaning of rising social forces and, in 
consequence, 'they have been unprepared to deal creatively with 
new problems as they have arisen in technical civilization'. 

In attributing contemporary social disorder to the religious 
apostasy of Western civilization, the Amsterdam Report had 
ignored the warning of the Chairman of the Section's Study 
Commission. In his introductory chapter of diagnosis in the 
background volume, Reinhold Niebuhr had written that such 
an interpretation assumed 'that it is possible to define the order of 
God in detailed and specific laws and rules of justice', an arrogant 
absurdity since 'God's order can never be identified with some 
specific form of social organisation'. 1 In Dr. Niebuhr's judgment 
we are experiencing the inevitable consequences of the failure 
to adapt institutions to changing economic conditions. Industrial- 
ism, he argued, destroyed the organic and traditional forms of 
society and, as the instrument of imperialism, planted the seeds 

1 CDS, p. 14. Another contributor to the preparatory volume, Professor Jacques 
Ellul, argued at a meeting of the Section in Preparatory Commission that the diagnosis 
should start from God's given order, since 'the present desperate situation of the world 
brought us to see more clearly the concrete topical relevance of that order of God which 
is revealed in the Scriptures'. Archives. 


of conflict in the international field. The conflict between the 
proletariat and the middle classes, the absence of real community, 
are manifestations of modern man's inability to achieve tolerable 
justice and basic security in a civilization created by technological 
developments. Society, in short, has not learned to live with its 
own inventions and aspirations. The churches share the culpability 
for our present plight, for 'Historic Christianity failed to imple- 
ment the moral imperatives of the love commandment under 
the new conditions of a technical age.' 1 As a result, political 
- religions have arisen offering rationalizations of society's predica- 
ment and solutions of man's personal problems of insecurity 
and insignificance, solutions which have only aggravated the 

The debate on the underlying causes of contemporary social 
ills was never joined at Amsterdam nor in the preparatory 
conferences of Section III. Because of a paucity of resources and 
time (and, doubtless, to avoid controversy), it had early been 
decided to omit any explicit historical inquiry into the forces 
shaping Western civilization. How decisively secularism deter- 
mined the trend of modern history, how it arose, what are its 
characteristic manifestations and consequences were not explored. 
A summary religious judgment was expressed. 

The two ideas which were chosen as a focus for the diagnosis 
of the ills of modern society the breakdown of personal relation- 
ships and the disintegration of family life, and the pervasive 
influence of the machine for good or ill were subsequently 
termed indifferently 'factors', 'characteristics', 'occasions', 'forms', 
and even 'negative causes'. At bottom, the subject preoccupying 
Amsterdam's thinking on cultural, political and ecumenical 
affairs was the consequences of modern industrialism. 2 

1 Op. cit., p. 20. The inherent difficulties are examined later in the section, 'Corporate 
Christian Influence on Society'. 

2 Commentators to whom the preliminary text of the preparatory volume was sub- 
mitted pointed out other elements, mentioning the enormous increase in population in 
modern rimes, the effect of migrations, the change in the average age-level, the intrusion 
of the irrational in the field of philosophy, the prevalence of education which ignores 
values; the general lines of the diagnosis were accepted without reservation, however, 
and pessimistic conclusions conceded. 


The description of the advent and effects of technology, 
written for the background volume by Dr. J. H. Oldham, owed 
much to the thought of Lewis Mumford. 1 'Science and technics,' 
it was argued, 'had their origin in man's legitimate desire to 
understand the world, to control it for his own purposes, to add 
to his knowledge, wealth and power.' 2 The results were deemed 
to be on the whole negative, technical skills having outdistanced 
man's social capacities. Man, it was judged, is being conditioned 
by his environment and his environment is susceptible to manipu- 
lation by newly discovered social techniques. 'Science has 
become an instrument of power, and the disinterestedness of the 
thinker and the spirit of contemplation of former times have 
given place increasingly to the drive of the organizer and 
promoter.' 3 The temper of the technological era was found to 
be in conflict with Christianity on several scores, basically because 
it is an expression of a two-dimensioned universe within whose 
assumptions no answers can be found for the meaning of life, a 
question supposing 'belief in a spiritual reality transcending the 
world of time and space with which science and technics are 
concerned'. The challenge to such assumptions, the clearing of 
the intellectual climate breeding false values, Dr. Oldham 
concluded, calls for a change in the deep-rooted attitudes to life, 
a genuine metanoia which should commence among Christians 

The effect of technology on personal living was outlined by 
Mrs. Kathleen Bliss for the background volume in a chapter 
sketching the changing relations between the sexes, the generations 
and neighbours brought about by the division of labour, the 
manpower demands and the standardization of time schedules of 
the industrialized age. Technical society was deemed to have 

1 A British commentator, a layman, declared himself blundy 'out of sympathy with the 
whole line and character of the chapter', terming it an 'amalgam of the work of "clever" 
publicists and armchair theorists, the type of people who can produce "striking" arguments 
as to how things might (theoretically) happen but who never bother to ask themselves 
whether they do, in fact, happen that way'. The critic concluded that it would be 'perilous' 
to put such analysis 'before the academic ecclesiastics who are likely to be at Amsterdam'. 

3 CDS, p. 43. s Ibid. 


created 'impersonal categories, groupings and interests under the 
names "capital", "labour", "consumers", and the like, and threat- 
ens to fall apart into self-interested groups which the State must 
attempt to hold together'. 1 How a sense of common membership 
can be instilled in modern society, an impersonal association of 
complicated, interdependent parts, so that the riches of com- 
munity life can become a living reality to the ordinary man was 
felt to be the great question. Since the chapter was concerned 
with analysis, no answers were offered. 

The differing modes in which the disorder of contemporary 
society manifested itself in various parts of the world was the 
subject of separate studies made for the volume prepared for the 
guidance of the delegates to the Assembly's Section III. The 
situation in Europe was described by Jacques Ellul, Professor in 
the Faculty of Law, Bordeaux, in unrelieved terms of gloom. 3 
Presumably aided by other collaborators, Professor Ellul 
concluded that 'the last traces of European civilization are 
disappearing', 3 its spiritual foundations are being rejected, its 
traditional values are proving themselves impotent to guide and 
co-ordinate the dominant forces which are evolving in anarchy 
out of human control. These forces were listed as the inhuman 
power of the State, 4 the primacy of production, 5 the extreme 

1 CDS, p. 90. 

2 An Indian commentator wrote with evident satisfaction that reading Professor Ellul's 
paper 'was like reading Mahatma Gandhi'. Archives. 

a Oral observation of Professor Ellul at the meeting of Commission HI, Bossey, 
June 26, 1947. The Professor's pessimism was thoroughgoing, he objected during the 
discussion to the judgment that the machine is neutral, that its effects for good or ill 
depend on the use made of it, arguing that, since the Fall, man is not free to choose between 
good or evil in the use of the machine and can use it only for evil purposes. The world, 
moreover, is the domain of Satan under the Lordship of Christ. Ibid. 

* 'More than in the rest of the world (even in Russia) it seems that the dominant 
element in Europe is the State.' ', . . everyone in Europe assumes that the State provides 
the solution for all problems. This is true even of democrats and liberals: what they 
want is a different kind of State, but they do not want to change the nature of the State 
in its technical form (police, finance) which actually determines everything else." CDS, 
p. 53- 

8 'It does not occur to anyone to challenge the idea that man exists in order to produce 
more and more ... if we wish to make a serious analysis of our economic difficulties and 
of the breakdown of humanist civilisation, we must bear in mind that one of its essential 
causes is this assumption that "production must come first". I do not mean that "over- 
production" is the cause of the crisis. It has nothing to do with it.' Ibid., p. 54. 


development of technics, 1 and war. 2 As a result, the European 
has become a mass-man, living in a totalitarian society 'even if 
no explicitly totalitarian doctrine is invoked'. The diagnosis 
discerned no signs of health anywhere, 3 save in the realization 
of the Church's mission to the world among a 'remnant' preserved 
by God. 

To diagnose under the title 'The Situation in Asia' the disorder 
experienced by half the world's population, a concentrated mass 
of people of diverse cultural patterns inhabiting the immense 
plains and teeming islands of the Far East, is an effort of compre- 
hension displaying no small courage. Such an analysis must 
cover with valid generalizations the hill primitives of Thailand 
and the industrial workers of Japan, the Pakistani Moslem and 
the Chinese Stalinist, the Borneo animist and the Indian intel- 
lectual. The contradictory comments made, not least by Asians, 
on the summary prepared for the Amsterdam volume by Dr. 
M. S. Bates, Professor of History at the University of Nanking, 
a modest scholar well aware of the complexities of the theme 
assigned to him, might well suggest a certain tentativeness to lay 
political observers as they interpret current developments in the 
Far East. In the opinion of Dr. Bates, 'The issues of modern 
industry and its urban life are faced directly by only small 
minorities of the Asiatic peoples, except in Japan', since 'the 
great masses of Asia live by agriculture'. This multitudinous 
agricultural proletariat the missionary educator saw sunk in. a 
materialism more primitive and more prevalent than the 
materialism of the machine in the Ruhr or at Pittsburgh, 
a materialism of 'mass hunger and the insecure toil of 
human backs', for 'population crowds upon subsistence with, 
unrelenting pressure'. This vast human mass is in ferment 
undergoing radical political reorganization while former 

1 'Europe as a whole no longer believes in these technics and no longer has the 
strength nor the spiritual elevation nor the social organization required to enable it to 
control the technical instruments which it is being induced to employ. Thus Europe is 
being led to follow a path which is no longer its own.' Ibid., p. 55. 

a 'European society is entirely built up on a war basis (in this direction Europe has gone 
farther than the rest of the world which is moving in the same direction) .' Ibid. 

a Ibid., pp. 61-71. 


imperialism retreats. The reorganization is accompanied by 
cruelty and despotism. 1 

Nationalism was judged the fuel of this ferment in Asia and 
industrialization the means inflexibly pursued by its determined 
organizers: 'They want to increase the tangible strength of their 
respective States as against Western political and economic 
control and by imitation of Western States.' For these determined 
leaders of an assertive nationalism, the Soviet system was said to 
offer an idealized stereotype of success against outside enemies, 
of the conquest of illiteracy and racial discrimination, of the 
triumph over landlordism, colonialism and economic exploitation 
of others, of the victory of modern technology at the service of a 
directing intelligence. 2 Sovietism, however, is the inspiration 
and the exemplar, not the controlling force, in the judgment of 
this experienced American observer writing in 1947: 'It must be 
reiterated that in Asia even communism does not rival nationalism, 
still driven by the impetus of protest and fresh ambition, the 
greatest single emotion socially effective.' 3 Under the shock of 
awakened nationalism the conservative religious cultures of Asia 
are faltering and Dr. Bates could not surmise how successfully 
they will make the painful adaption to the emerging civilization. 
Certainly, he felt, the insignificant Christian minority in Asia 
30 millions in a mass of 1,110 millions can scarcely have a 
direct influence on the outcome. 

The Asian critics of Dr. Bates's chapter, particularly the 
Indians, found his analysis superficial but their comments tended 
to confirm his judgment on nationalism as the primary factor in 
Far Eastern developments and the organization of the masses as 
the preoccupation of Asiatics. 4 

1 'Asia has no established tradition of individual or group rights guaranteed against 
arbitrary authority, no sound basis for democratic organisation on a national scale, despite 
recent imitation of "Western liberal forms in the Philippines and elsewhere.' CDS, p. 64, 

2 'To the Asiatic who finds in the ways of past or present no possible escape from 
individual or national poverty, Russia offers a sharp, confident analysis of the hell he is in, 
a social saviour with all the plausible advantages of omnipotent system.' Ibid., p. 65. 

8 Ibid., p. 66. 

4 Typical comments: 'The proletarian movement has already achieved marvellous 
results in abolishing slums, the joint control of industry, the sharing of profits and 
in shifting industrial enterprise from the hands of the shareholders to the national 


To balance tke viewpoint of a Western scholar, the editors of 
the background volume for the Amsterdam Assembly decided 
to invite an Indian to furnish another analysis of 'The Situation 
in Asia'. 1 The chapter written by M. M. Thomas, then a secretary 
at the World's Student Christian Federation headquarters in 
Geneva, is mainly an exposition of the Christian responsibility 
for Asia's future and a prescription of the proper tactic to follow. 2 
Denying the existence of overpopulation as a factor, 3 Mr. 
Thomas deemed the disorders of the Far East only an extension 
of the evils of Western industrialism in its imperialist manifesta- 
tion: 'Asia has in large measure become the "agricultural farm" 
of the West, producing raw materials for the machines in the 
West, and absorbing their finished goods.' Rural poverty was 
seen as the result of the colonial policy of Western industrial 
nations, and Asian nationalism the inevitable protest. None of 
the forces active on the Asian scene except Christianity, however, 
was thought capable of contributing to the emerging civilization 
the essential ingredient, the idea of responsible personality. The 
obligation on Asian Christians, then, is particularly heavy, hi 
Mr. Thomas's view the implications of that obligation are also 

plane.' '. . . The disorder is a result of Western policies. Progress will come out of the 
ferment, e.g. labour unions. ..." '. . . It is my considered judgment that Asia is a potential 
field for socialism either under the auspices of nationalism or in spite of it. The masses every- 
where, whether in the West or East, are for One World under a single government and the 
greatest hindrance to the formation of a world state does not, perhaps, come from Soviet 
Russia but it does come from the power-seeking politicians of the West and the economic 
control the West rightly or unjustly has maintained over decades.' '. . . The core of the 
problem is the struggle for justice, equality and freedom all else is subordinate. . . .' 
'. . . Western imperialism is not retracting but only changing tactics and hands.' '. . . So far 
as Asia is concerned these revolutionary Communist Parties are the one bulwark of liberal 

ideas and liberal values ' 'All modern governments are dictatorial, Constitutions are 

an eye-wash and the world is run by a dictatorial party or dictators with a pompous show 
of popular consent.' '. . . In India women participate in public life which is not so in 
United States.' Archives. Only India and China, it must be added, supplied spokesmen 

1 Ironically, a group of ten Asians who read the chapter in Geneva found it deficient 
in objectivity though conceding that it represented 'a very common Asiatic attitude'. 
The author was described as 'a Western man talking to the West'. Ibid. The problems 
of the World Council's Study Department in finding collaborators who are at once 
representative, objective and authentic are manifestly not meagre. 

2 In CDS, pp 71-9. 

8 Both Chinese and Indian commentators were insistent that population pressure was 
not the root cause of poverty, one claiming that 'Asiatics have increased 30 per cent in the 
last 300 years, Europeans, excluding the Irish, 300 per cent'. Archives. 


clear: it requires Asians to share in the struggle against the West 
so that responsible governments and tolerable conditions of 
existence for the peoples may be achieved. 1 

Only three pages were required to present the diagnosis of 
social disorder in the United States in the chapter of the back- 
ground volume prepared for the Amsterdam delegates. In the 
view of the author, Reinhold Niebuhr: 'Since America belongs 
in general to the European world in terms of both its culture and 
the economic and political institutions of its civilization, there is 
no need for a separate full discussion of the American situation.' 2 
Dr. Niebuhr noted some differences: 'the stronger hold which 
the creeds of older classical liberalism have upon political and 
economic theory in America than in Europe', the absence of 
Marxist convictions in the trade union movement, the greater 
wealth which 'makes it less necessary, or at least makes it seem to 
be less necessary, to establish the kind of controls by which 
European nations seek to extend or to restore justice'; 3 and the 

1 Mr. Thomas was nothing if not concrete: 'In certain countries lake Indonesia and 
Indo-China it means active participation in armed conflict against the Western European 
powers; in the rest of Asia the war is no less real though not so open. . . . Many Christians, 
like the writer himself, see in the united front and the coalition programmes of the Asian 
nationalism of the Left, the only sane political way out of civil war, communal riots, 
political domination and intolerable living conditions of the mass of the people.' CDS, 
pp. 78-9- 

2 Was Dr Niebuhr being disingenuous here? Several of his colleagues on Amsterdam's 
Preparatory Commission III at least doubted that Europe and the United States con- 
stituted a common civilization. It was the argument of Professor Ellul some fifteen pages 
earlier in the symposium that 'the situation of the European man is desperate' in part 
because of the menace of the values represented by American society. 

8 The American business man would say that this is an ignoratio elenchi, that it supposes 
that the kinds of controls imposed by European governments are necessary or desirable 
in the United States. A World Council collaborator, evidently from American business 
circles, commented with scarcely concealed hostility: 'As Mr. Niebuhr's Socialist leanings 
are not deducible from theological principles or dogmas, it is only fair to ask where they 
come from and if he speaks on. the subject with any particular authority by virtue of his 
theological attainments. There is a tendency, I believe, for theologians to put laymen at a 
disadvantage by assuming a moral superiority over them. This leads them to pontificate 
on mundane matters on which they are no wiser than the average citizen. I suspect that 
Professor Niebuhr has the impression that his views on Socialisia and Capitalism somehow 
gain weight because of his distinction as a theologian and that he is not averse to selling a 
mundane bill of goods on transcendental grounds. I respect an honest Socialist. More- 
over, I have no objection to an argument over the merits of socialism, if my opponent is 
prepared to debate the issue on the level of common sense. But, frankly, I find nothing in 
Professor Niebuhr's paper concrete enough to sink my teeth into or even to support a 


higher degree of social freedom and fluidity. Dr. Niebuhr dis- 
believed, however, that American experience had made any 
unique discoveries. 1 It was conceded that the great productive 
power of America may ease or even obscure for decades the 
inherent problems created by a technical society, but, Dr. 
Niebuhr reaffirmed, the basic situation is the same throughout 
the world and the task of creating community in modern industrial 
civilization is similar, 'whatever may be the superficial differences 
on this or that continent'. 

The overall diagnosis of the disorder of society presented in 
the Section III reports resulted in a sombre picture, relieved only 
by the declaration of the assurance of Christians 'of the final 
victory over all sin and death through Christ'. The prognosis 
was indefinite, the Report contenting itself with the statement 
that 'no inescapable necessity' prejudiced the future, and invoking 
the responsibility of the Church to rescue men from the tyranny 
of technology and help them to achieve a fuller personal life. In 
undertaking such an enterprise the churches were reminded of 
their past failures and asked not to forget 'to what extent they 
themselves have contributed to the very evils which they are 
tempted to blame wholly on the secularization of society'. The 
indictment was phrased for the Report by Professor John C. 
Bennett who had contributed an acute analysis 2 of the concrete 
involvement of religious groups in the current practices of the 
contemporary social order for a background volume of the 

legitimate controversy. If tie is disaffected with, modern, capitalism, including the American 
variety, as he obviously is, that is his affair. All of us criticize it in some respects and most 
of us are keenly aware that it needs improvement. But should a spokesman for the 
Protestant Churches of America raise the flag of socialism without first validating his 
stand by reasoned argument?' Archives. 

1 'It is probably true, however, that the conditions which created a peculiar American 
political philosophy have a rather short-range efficacy, and that in time America will have 
to learn that the maintenance of both freedom and order, of both liberty and equality, is 
just as difficult as the European nations have found it to be.' CDS, p. 82. The year of the 
Evanston Assembly, two internationally renowned economists and students of cultural 
change disputed the judgment that the American system was only superficially different. 
Adolf A. Berle, Jr., published The Twentieth Century Capitalist Revolution and Professor 
William E. Rappard offered his analysis, A Quoi Tient la Superiority Economise fas Etats 

2 'The Causes of Social Evil', in Christian Faith and the Common Life, pp. 175 ff. 


Oxford Conference of 1937 and who edited suggestions of several 
collaborators for a chapter in the Amsterdam series of preparatory 
studies, indicating how frequently the churches have served as 
instruments of national, class and racial policies, unfaithful to 
their professed principles in their investment and hiring practices. 
It will be evident that the diagnosis of the disorder of con- 
temporary society found in the Amsterdam Report represents a 
synthesis of the attitudes of volunteers drawn from the ecumenical 
constituency. In the nature of things it was a judgment on the 
times by reHgious-minded men whose opinions derive more 
directly from theology than from economic analysis, sociological 
surveys or historical research. 1 The method has manifest limita- 
tions. Indeed the World Council Study Department recognizes 
'how inadequately equipped the churches still are when it comes 
to investigating and realistically assessing facts and trends in their 
own situation'. That realization was a result of a year-long 
programme of fact-finding and of consultation with denomina- 
tional and interdenominational agencies and individual corres- 
pondents throughout the world in an endeavour to prepare 
material for the Evanston Assembly. 

2. The Evanston Diagnosis: New Arenas of Social Conflict 

Polled five years after the Amsterdam Assembly, the "World 
Council constituency supplied material for a survey of ecumenical 
opinion which was a more measured, more comprehensive and, 
it might be added, less pessimistic outline of 'The World Social 
Revolution' in progress. The brochure recognized 'the basic 
changes which have taken place in recent decades', reaffirmed a 

1 This is not an occupational hazard peculiar to ecclesiastics. Intellectuals (who must 
call for help to change a tyre on a motor-car) are prone to praise the Chaplin film, 
Modem Times, as an accurate picture of the helpless industrial worker caught in the meshes 
of the devouring monster, the machine, forgetting that Edwin Markham's poetic reflec- 
tions on the vacuous, brutalized 'Man with the Hoe' were provoked on seeing Millet's 
painting of a peasant. The vogue of Rohert Jungk's description of American society as 
dominated by soulless technocrats, Le Futur a dlja Commend, is a case in point. The 
supposition that it is somehow ennobling to pick cotton by hand but depersonalizing to 
tend harvesting machines indicates an intrusion of Romanticism in unsuspected quarters. 
How the present population of the world, which has more than doubled in less than a 
century, can be fed and clothed without the aid of modern industry is never suggested. 


belief in continuing social reform, indicated the global dimensions 
of economic problems, underlined the inadequacy of analysis 
in terms of 'isms' and ideologies, and modestly conceded that 
the complexity of the problems had occasioned among the 
churches an uncertainty of the precise nature of their social 
responsibility and the concrete means of exercising it. 1 

First among the significant changes on which the survey 
volume focused attention was what it termed 'the decline of 
classical Capitalism'. The editors did not mean to suggest that 
privately owned commercial and financial institutions are 
disappearing. Their intention was to underline the fact that the 
specifically nineteenth-century creed and organization known as 
Economic Liberalism has been domesticated, that belief in the 
automatic working of a free market as the mechanism to establish 
justice has been largely discredited, that the independence of 
economic activity from social, particularly governmental, control 
has been successfully challenged. Recalling the dangers connected 
with capitalism listed by the 1937 Oxford Conference, the 
Evanston preparatory study noted: 'There are areas of the world 
where these criticisms still apply but in many countries these 
specific social evils have been substantially alleviated through, 
social reform.' Whatever the names, generally themes of 
partisan controversy, associated with the political instruments 
of these movements of social reform, they have all combated 
the defenders of the autonomy of economic practices and 
have successfully achieved legal recognition of some common 
goals. 2 

1 CHTC, pp 3-10. 

2 In the language of a recent report of the Social Commission of the Dutch Ecumenical 
Council: 'If we look back on the history of the last half-century in the West, the institution 
we now call the welfare state is seen to be dominated above all by (a) the protection of 
the weak by authority, (fe) the campaign to achieve a juster social order; (c) an effort to 
do away with the causes of the defects in the economic structure.' Quoted in CHTC, 
p. 34. Addressing the Economic Club of Detroit, Professor Arthur F. Burns, Chairman of 
the US President's Council of Economic Advisers, explained: Today it is no longer a 
matter of serious controversy whether the Government should play a positive role in 
helping to maintain a high level of economic activity. "What we debate nowadays is not 
the need of controlling business cycles but rather the nature of government action, its 
timing and its extent.' New York Times, October 19, 1954. 


Indeed the very success of these social reform movements 
presents the churches with awkward questions of future policy. 
The Survey report from the United States observed that political 
and social developments in that country have realized most of 
the hopes represented by 'The Social Ideals of the Churches', 
the celebrated document, twice revised by the Federal Council 
of Churches. The changes brought about in England in recent 
years, noted the Survey's chapter 'Trends in Great Britain', and 
the 'general acceptance by society of the ends which Christians 
had set before themselves', has led to uncertainty and doubt 
as to what the future of the social teaching of the churches 
should be. In post-war Germany, it was pointed out, Christian 
opinion concedes that the debate on 'capitalism versus socialism' 
is passe and that the immediate problem concerns the finding 
of the right combination of freedom and control in economic 

Closely related to the decline of laissez-faire capitalism both as a 
philosophy and a fact, in the opinion of the editors of the Evanston 
survey volume, has been the 'de-Marxizing' of Socialism. 
Reviewing a number of declarations of representative Socialist 
groups, they felt that recent events, particularly the events of two 
world wars and the encounter with totalitarian governments, 
has cauterized the optimistic assumption of the inevitabih'ty of 
progress produced by economically determined laws of history 
and has caused the progressive abandonment of doctrinaire 
materialism in Socialist thinking. This recognition of the perils 
of seeking justice through collectivism, this new emphasis on 
the importance of freedom for the individual, this new open- 
ness to the spiritual values of the person found in contemporary 
Socialist literature was deemed to offer new opportunities for 
the churches as they think out the possibilities of democratic 
planning. 1 

1 Were the editors too sanguine or, perhaps, too selective in neglecting Socialist opinion 
in Latin countries' While they were reading proof-sheets of the survey volume, an 
important by-election took place in France's Department of Seine-et-Oise with the 
European Defence Community, approved at the Brussels meeting of Socialist Parties, as 
the declared primary issue. Though all the candidates had agreed in advance to withdraw 


The pre-Evanston Survey found the spiritual situation in 
Europe 'partly static and partly dynamic' (in the words of Dr. 
Visser 't Hooft) and pointed to the painful efforts being made, 
despite the devastation wrought by the war and the cost of the 
rearmament programme, to deal with unemployment, housing 
and the rights of workers in industry, to construct supranational 
agencies of economic and political co-operation and to make the 
adjustments resulting from the separation of Eastern and Western 
Europe. 1 

The analysis of Asian problems was free of all political partisan- 
ship; it agreed, nevertheless, that Asian society and indeed all the 
underdeveloped countries of the world was undergoing a 
radical change 

by movements for political independence and self-determination 
in economic matters, by industrialization and the organization of 
economic and social life on functional rather than on traditional lines, 
by the spread of new convictions about the nature of the universe 
and the meaning of human life and by the revolt against enslaving 
and exploiting institutions. 2 

New forms of social organization were emerging, heavy with 
promise and menace, whose lineaments no man could clearly 

Finally, the Survey noted among recent social changes the 
growing economic interdependence of all countries, so that the 
welfare of the entire human race falls within the range of social 
policy. 'Success in the creation of new societies in Asia, Africa, 
the Middle East and Latin America is vital for the welfare of the 
world', is a judgment indicating the importance the editors 
attached to the breadth of understanding required by the needs 
of our times. 

from the final ballot in favour of the one who obtained the highest votes in the preliminary 
election against the Communist Party candidate, Andr6 Sttl, the editor of UHumanite, 
the Socialist Party candidate persisted in the race when a member of the Mouvement 
Republican! Populaire topped the list of 'national' candidates. The single reason the 
Socialist gave for not withdrawing was that 'les electeurs laiques' had to be represented 
in the election. 

1 CHTC, pp. 28-41. 

2 Ibid., p. 41. 


3 . The Difference in Diagnosis 

The diagnosis prepared for the Second Assembly, it will be 
noticed, was quite summary, scarcely more than a necessary 
preliminary to outlining the positive tasks of the Section to 
think through some of the implications of the topic, 'The 
Responsible Society in a "World Perspective'. If the generally 
pessimistic tone of the pre- Amsterdam volume is missing, several 
reasons may be suggested for its absence. Amsterdam's Section III 
was concerned by definition with disorders, and a negative task 
induces almost inevitably a negative viewpoint. Furthermore, 
whatever be the theoretical view of the industrial civilization, 
of the West and its effects on the human personality, it has shown 
a vitality, unsuspected perhaps in 1948. European production 
since that year has laboriously gained and exceeded pre-war levels 
and the United States economy, the exemplar when not the 
stereotype of that civilization, has manifested a durability and a 
resilience that has surprised many a prophet of doom- 
It may not be without significance that the more impersonal 
yet less theoretical Evanston preparatory material was edited 
by the World Council's Study Department. A broader, more 
balanced judgment can be expected in a synthesis of many reports 
than in a symposium of what are, perforce, the viewpoints of 
individuals. 1 The Geneva Secretariat has before it, moreover, as 
an example of a serious research project of economic realities 
and their political and social consequences, the six-volume series 
on Christian Ethics and Economic Life, recently published in the 
United States. Undertaken in 1949 with the aid of a grant from 
the Rockefeller Foundation and sponsored by the Department 
of Churches and Economic Life of the National Council of 
Churches, the project benefited from the talents and research of 
professional economists, theologians and authoritative spokesmen 
of all the essential segments of the American economy. Finally, 

1 Contacts with East Europe having become more and more tenuous since the Amster- 
dam Assembly, only scanty information on conditions in what has been called 'The Dark 
Side of the Moon' was available for the pre-Evanston Survey. No representatives from that 
area appeared at the two-week study session of the 'Responsible Society' Preparatory Com- 
mission, held in Begnins in August 1953 to approve definitely a statement for the Section. 


the location of the World Council's Study Department may well 
have contributed a larger serenity to the pre-Evanston Survey. 
It is difficult to sustain for long a metaphysical angoisse or brood, 
overmuch about modern man, chained to a pitiless monster of a 
machine or enslaved by the ogre of the totalitarian State, when 
living in the midst of Switzerland's sturdy, diversified economy, 
protected by its political traditions of personal independence. 


In the course of the editorial work of preparing the analysis 
of the disorders of society for the Amsterdam background 
volume, one of the contributors, Dr. J. H. Oldham, suggested 
a question of capital importance. 'Given the conditions of a 
technical society,' he asked, 'what are the political and economic 
arrangements which Christians ought to favour for the pre- 
servation of the human values involved in the Christian con- 
ception of man and what action (if any) can or ought the Church 
to take to further such arrangements?' 'Political and economic 
arrangements' are a paraphrase for what sociologists and political 
scientists call 'institutions', and variously define as 'the established 
forms or conditions of procedure characteristic of group activity' 
(Maclver), or 'the social structure and machinery through which 
human society organizes, directs and executes the multifarious 
activities required to satisfy human needs' (Barnes). 

Unfortunately, Dr. Oldham's question was not seriously 
pursued at either Commission or Sectional meetings to the point 
of defining the institutions required. Among the reasons for 
this was probably the traditional determination of the Ecumenical 
Movement not to identify Christianity with any particular politi- 
cal or economic system, the diversity of theological views in 
the World Council constituency on the nature and scope of the 
State and the absence of technically equipped participants in the 
discussions. 1 As a result, it is particularly the paragraphs entitled 

1 The only trained economist present at the meeting (June 25, 1947) of Preparatory 
Commission III, Dr. C. L. Patijn, introduced a note of the concrete during a discussion 


'Economic and Political Organization' of Amsterdam's Section 
III Report that justify the judgment of Professor J. M. Clark of 
Columbia University that the Assembly's declaration on econo- 
mic problems 'was significant, but more in terms of general 
attitudes than specific issues', a verdict endorsed by the Memor- 
andum of the Preparatory Commission for the Evanston 
Assembly on 'The Responsible Society', meeting at Begnins, 
Switzerland, in mid-August 195 3. 1 

i. Social Mechanisms 

The question of attitudes towards specific social institutions 
is one on which the mind of the Ecumenical Movement is 
seemingly still in gestation. Whatever vagueness may have 
bemused the delegates to the Stockholm Conference of 1925, 
they shared the sanguine expectation of the times that with more 
good will mankind would continue to march towards ever- 
expanding prosperity and securer peace. The Oxford Conference 
of 1937, on the other hand, knew that there exists a permanent 
problem of social mechanisms channelling economic activity 
and organizing political life. Technics, it was pointed out, have 
increased prodigiously man's power so that the means of abolish- 
ing the kind of poverty which cripples the human personality 
are already available. 2 A change of heart, a new spiritual orienta- 
tion, it was acknowledged, is a palpable necessity, but the principle 
of personal charity, it was argued, cannot dispense with the 
complex and mundane tasks of the social order nor does a warm, 
heart substitute for the cold duty of tHnking through the institu- 
tional forms that best express and maintain in equilibrium, the 
manifold demands of social justice. 3 Convened eleven years later, 
the Amsterdam. Assembly was likewise aware of the pressing, 

on. the menace of the State by pointing out that only governments could administer the 
Marshall Plan, then under consideration as a means of overcoming the financial breakdown 
in Europe by the co-operation of different nations. Archives. 

* BR vi (October 1953), I, p, 77. * Oxford, p. 103. 

3 'Christianity becomes socially futile if it does not recognize that love must will justice 
and that the Christian is under an obligation to secure the best possible social and economic 
structure, in so far as such structure is determined by human decisions.' Ibid., p. 95. The 
phrasing suggests Reinhold Niebuhr as the author. 


world-wide 'need for stability in the value of money, for 
creation of capital and for incentives in production'; it recognized 
that 'coherent and purposeful ordering of society has now 
become a major necessity', since as Section III insisted justice 
demands that economic activities be subordinated to social ends'. 1 

Because economic activity had not been subordinated to social 
ends, it was averred, the disorders earlier diagnosed had arisen. 
Technological efficiency was becoming an end in itself, imperil- 
ling the essential dignity of the person: Vast millions of people 
[are] exposed to insecurity, hunger and frustration by periodic 
inflation and depression', collected 'into great industrial cities' 
and deprived of 'those forms of human association in which 
men can grow most fully as persons' . These conditions economic 
insecurity, herd existence, housing unfit for human occupancy, 
loss of a sense of responsibility are the elements of proletariani- 
zation. 2 The situation is scarcely of recent date. In 1859 John 
Stuart Mill was writing in his celebrated essay, On Liberty: 'At 
present individuals are lost in the crowd. . . . The only power 
deserving of the name is that of masses and of governments while 
they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts 
of masses.' 

How temper the depersonalizing dangers of a technical 
society? How emancipate the workers from their proletarian 
status? How achieve the subordination of economic activities 
to social ends? 

2. In Search of Stability and Freedom 

The Report of Amsterdam's Section III protested its in- 
competence to sit in judgment on arguments for socializing the 
means of production as the solution of the problem or to appraise 

1 Amsterdam, pp. 767. 

2 "Wilhelm Ropke describes the condition (and hints at its causes) as 'nothing less than 
that human beings have got into a highly dangerous sociological and anthropological 
state which is characterised by lack of property, lack of reserves of every kind (including 
the ties of family and neighbourhood), by economic servitude, uprooting, massed living 
quarters, militarisation of work, by estrangement from nature and by the mechanisation 
of productive activity; in short, by a general devitalisation and loss of personality'. 
Civitas Humana, p. 140. 


the assertion that such a course leads to the omnicompeteiit State. 
It contented itself with pointing out to the advocates of socializa- 
tion that 'in the light of the Christian understanding of man . . . 
the institution of property is not the root of the corruption 
of human nature' and reminding the defenders of the present 
property system that the claims of justice condition the rights of 
ownership and limit its exercise according to moral requirements. 
The needs of the community as a whole, it was insisted, should 
prevail over economic processes and property rights, persons 
being more important than purely technical considerations; all 
institutional forms, in consequence, must make provision for a 
satisfying life for 'little men in big societies'. Planning was 
deemed imperative but economic initiative should not be 
smothered by bureaucratic control. 1 The unspecified complexus 
of institutions and insights which would offer protection against 
the twin perils of tyranny and anarchy was happily termed 
'The Responsible Society'. 

Continuing study of the meaning and implications of the 
Responsible Society is leading the World Council of Churches 
towards a precision of its attitude on the institutional reforms 
needed to achieve an approximate and tolerable justice in human 
society. Evanston's Section on Social Questions conceded that, 
at least in the political realm, equity demands permanent and 
flexible structures. 2 

The Report was explicit on some of the characteristics and 
purposes of these institutions. 3 For the future of underdeveloped 
areas it was certain that 'political institutions must be developed' 

1 'To achieve religious, cultural, economic, social and other ends it is of vital importance 
that society should have a rich variety of smaller forms of community, m local govern- 
ment, -within industrial organizations, including trade unions, through the development 
of public corporations and through voluntary associations.' Amsterdam, p. 77. 

2 'Justice requires the development of political institutions which are humane as they 
touch the lives of people, which provide protection hy law against the arbitrary use of 
power and which encourage responsible participation by all citizens." Evanston, p. 115. 

8 '(a) Every person should be protected against arbitrary arrest or other interference 
with elementary human rights; (b) Every person should have the right to express his 
religious, moral and political convictions. This is especially important for those who belong 
to minorities, (c) Channels of political action must be developed by which the people can 
without recourse to violence change their governments; (d) Forms of association within 


to effect necessary social and economic reforms. In the economic 
order the mind of the World Council is not yet formed as it is, 
for example, on international relations. It recognizes a Christian 
duty to support the United Nations but is silent on a possible 
Christian obligation to join a labour union or professional 
association. It announces responsibilities for concrete programmes 
of technical assistance to backward areas but has not pronounced 
on the current claims of labour to a share in the prerogatives of 

It is positive on the juridical foundations of international 
co-operation but open-minded on the basis of the ownership of 
the means of production. It is decisive on the individual's right 
to religious freedom against encroachment from any quarter 
but mute on the same individual's right to private property 
against unwarranted and unrecompensed confiscation. The 
mechanism of UN Peace Commission teams is commended as a 
valuable instrument for international order but the mechanism 
of the market-place as the instrument for establishing prices 
awaits analysis and an ultimate verdict. 

3. Further Problems 

Concrete issues of social justice in economic practice will 
undoubtedly come in for progressively greater scrutiny as the 
continuing inquiry on the Responsible Society goes forward. 
The World Council certainly believes that material goods should 
be available in greater abundance to supply human needs. 
Evanston, for example, observed that medical care should be 
extended. But the complicated question of a just equilibrium 
of wages and prices enters even in that problem in the specialized 
welfare field; for, in addition to the training of additional pro- 
fessional personnel, more faculties must be created, modern 
equipment manufactured, hospitals, rest homes and health centres 
constructed. If such goods and services are to be furnished, 
the nation's earnings must rise; if they are to be bought, the 

society which have their own foundations and principles should be respected, and not 
controlled in their inner life, by the State. Churches, families and universities are dis- 
similar examples of this non-political type of association.' Ibid., pp. 115-16. 


consumer's income must be increased. An unwise increase in 
wages in one segment of the economy will mean higher prices 
which will induce unemployment. Labour costs must go down 
while labour's income increases if society is going to be able to 
afford the things that social justice postulates. A more efficient 
organization of the economy and a greater mechanization will 
increase output; increased productivity, in other words, is needed 
for increased production. Increased production is the way in which 
real wages can be augmented and prices brought down. 

Another issue which the World Council will inevitably 
encounter as it explores the concept of the Responsible Society 
is the justice of the fiscal policies pursued by Governments, the 
institution by which the political agency of the community 
assesses the financial burden of public services. What proportion 
of such revenue should be raised by direct and what by indirect 
taxation, what proportion from corporation profits and individual 
incomes and what from concealed imposts on the purchase of 
necessary services and consumption if equity is to be served? 

The subject of political and economic institutions concerns the 
social philosophy or the 'common convictions' of the World 
Council of Churches. For the question is another phase of the 
problem of the bond between the proximate and the ultimate 
issues of human existence, of the relationship between religious 
essentials and temporal importants, between dogmatic absolutes 
and social contingencies. Is there no connexion nor continuity 
between them? Is theology so transcendent that it has no need 
(nor capacity) to be realized in concrete historical institutions? 
Are there no judgments to be made on systems proposing to 
order man's life in community, no principles which can be 
invoked as criteria for moral appraisals of the social forms of 
political and economic organization? Or is the Christian, 
unconcerned about temporal structures and liberated from moral 
systems, to judge merely his present and individual duty in society 
in the light of insights communicated to him in prayer and the 
reverent reading of the Word of God? The problem, at bottom 
one of theology, is not irrelevant to the work of the World 


Council's Department on Church and Society. The relation of 
the Responsible Society to the Christian Hope is of no minor 
importance, it is clear. 

The problem is not yet resolved in the Ecumenical Community 
and, in consequence, the World Council's approach to the question 
of political and economic institutions is tentative and imprecise. 
During a meeting of Evanston's Section on Social Questions, a 
delegate George Thomas of the United States insisted that 
the discussion must concentrate on institutions. Addressing a 
plenary session of the Assembly, the Reverend D. T. Niles of 
South India indicated a preference for the personal (and, perforce, 
individualistic) approach. 1 As the meaning of the Responsible 
Society is examined further, ultimate questions of social philo- 
sophy its scope and bases as well as the proper function of social 
order will confront the constituency of the World Council of 
Churches more imperiously still. 


At a meeting of the Preparatory Commission a year before 
the Amsterdam Assembly, the draft chapters of the projected 
background volume were being examined. A member 2 of the 
group concerned with social questions had read a sentence from 
a manuscript under discussion: 'The solution of the problem of 
power in the totalitarian state is to concentrate economic and 
political power in the same hands/ and had asked: 'What is our 
solution?' The concept of the Responsible Society was the answer 
to that challenge. It stands as a symbol of the social arrangement 
maintaining in dynamic equilibrium freedom and order, liberty 
and justice while barring the road to tyranny and anarchy. 

1 'It is a question wrongly put when it is asked, "What is the Christian solution which 
the Church can offer to this or that problem?" For the task of the Church is not to offer 
Christian solutions to specific problems but to incarnate the Word in every human 
situation.' Quoted by Cecil Northcott, Evanston World Assembly, p. 24. The speaker was 
not referring, to be sure, to the institutional reform of society but the critique he voiced 
is apposite in this context. 

2 Archives. Dr. C. L. Patijn, Chairman of Section III at Amsterdam. The meeting was 
held at Bossey, June 25, 1947. 


It lias proved a serviceable term, supplying a substitute for the 
conflicting categories of 'capitalism' and 'communism'. For 
Anglo-Saxons the phrase 'the Responsible Society' recalls the 
heritage of the Common Law where men are not instruments 
of group purposes but principals, able to deal justly with their 
fellows without hindrance; for the continentals, who would 
accord only a negative function to the State as a dike against sin, 
it shifts the focus of debate; for those rejecting socially coercive 
measures as violating the spirit of the suffering Christ, it evokes 
the possibility of 'new and creative solutions'; for all who are 
preoccupied by the problem of the control of depersonalizing 
technics, it presents a summons to build new social tissue, more 
abiding personal relations; for those disturbed by the unresolved 
theocratic implications in the revival of Calvinist theology, it 
offers the reassuring distinction between society and the State; 
for those alarmed by the extension of the Welfare State, it offers 
a feasible alternative personal and group initiative. 

The term, 'Responsible Society', declared the Evanston 
Assembly, 'is not an alternative social or political system, but a 
criterion by which we judge all existing social orders and at the 
same time a standard to guide us in the specific choices we have 
to make.' 1 The observation is undoubtedly to be understood 
as a rephrasing of the familiar ecumenical protestation that there 
is no identifiable 'Christian' economic or political order. Surely 
it cannot be intended to mean that the term is an abstraction 
without verifiable applications; for the same document several 
paragraphs later argues that the Responsible Society must be 
embodied in political institutions and specifies their functions 
and characteristics. The Amsterdam Assembly, which introduced 
the phrase, referred to the Responsible Society as a goal for which 
all the churches in all lands should work. The Secretary of 
Section III, at a conference for reporters in August 1948, pointed 
out that in the nature of the case an ecumenical document cannot 
be precise in suggesting the next steps that would be relevant to 
serve such different societies as those in Britain, America, India 

1 Evanston, p. 113. 


and Hungary; he acknowledged, however, that the post-war 
programme of the British Labour Party was one form of the 
attempt to make concrete the complexus of moral insights, 
economic reforms and political orientation subsumed under the 
term. 1 Since the social goals proposed for the Responsible 
Society are admittedly beyond achieving or even seriously 
discussing in the communist-controlled areas of some of the 
member churches of the World Council, it has obviously appeared 
more realistic and expedient to emphasize the function of the 
phrase as a norm and standard. 2 

By way of examining the bearing of the concept, it will be 
profitable to review the history of the inquiry on the Responsible 
Society as it has progressed in the World Council Study Depart- 
ment programme. 

i. The Preliminary Outline 

The Secretary's Minutes of Amsterdam's Section III surprisingly 
reveal no explicit discussion of the idea that was the theme of a 
long chapter in the preparatory volume given to each delegate. 
Written by J. H. Oldham, its argument postulated a crisis of man, 
maladapted to the exigencies of the new world of technics, and a 
crisis of culture with traditional associations breaking down and 
the authority of ancient values disappearing. A new social 
environment must be constructed to sustain personal living in 
an age of technics, it was contended, a mission implying four 
major tasks for the Church. To the expounding of these tasks 
Dr. Oldham brought his genuine conviction of the importance 

^John C. Bennett in the Christian Century xxv (December 15, 1948), 50, p. 1364. 
Professor Bennett continued: 'I think it is only fair to the Report to say that the general 
direction in which it points might in some places appear to be a modified capitalism and 
in other places a modified socialism.' 

2 A memorandum, 'The Responsible Society in a World Perspective', prepared at a 
meeting of the Preparatory Commission for the Evanston Assembly held at Begmns, 
Switzerland, August 11-19, *953j noted: 'We recognize that the concept "responsible 
society" is not applicable to societies where Christians and other responsible citizens are 
deprived of the possibility of exercising effective influence over political authority and 
economic power, as in other lands. It may offer for such persons a criterion for judging 
the society in which they live. It cannot act as a constructive goal towards which they 
may work immediately, though they may wish Godspeed to those who find this possible.' 
ER vi (October 1953), i, p. 76. 


of lay action and group experimentation, a wide range of reading 
and a somewhat professorial confidence in the acumen of his 
favourite critics of contemporary society. 

The Oldham agenda for the Church in the construction of the 
Responsible Society lacks a clarification of terms which he 
introduced in the Oxford Conference discussions. It is not 
evident whether the tasks outlined are assigned to 'organized 
Christianity', the sum of all the separate Christian individuals 
of the different denominations, or to the ecclesiastical authorities 
and official organs of the different denominations. Some of the 
lines of action suppose the initiative of citizens who are Christians, 
other suggestions call for new emphases in preaching or official 
guidance by ecclesiastical bodies. The term, 'the Church', has a 
double sense, therefore, and from it is asked assistance in. the 
cultural, economic and political areas for the creation of a decent 
social order. Thus: 

(a) A new social awareness must be created, Oldham argued, 
by inspiring small groups of persons to enter into associations 
where the common object will be sought in a spirit of mutual 
sharing and support. Under God's grace, such associations will 
mature the richer Christian personalities needed for the reforming 
and reinvigorating of modern mass society; they will, in addition, 
furnish the pattern of private initiative and communal service 
capable of supplanting some of the functions currently assumed 
by the all-provident State. This needed social consciousness will 
be greatly aided by the sense of solidarity resulting from the 
experience of communal worship. 

(b) A theology of work must be developed. Modern man 
must recover a sense of the significance of his occupational 
activity, a conviction that he is contributing something by his 
hands or head to the purpose of the world, a satisfaction in 
contemplating a connexion between his vocation and the 
Christian obligation to love and serve God. The problem is 
aggravated by modern methods of production which allegedly 
destroy all pride of creative craftsmanship, reducing the worker 
to an animated automaton tending a monstrous machine whose 


functioning is beyond his understanding and whose product is 
'untouched by human hands'. 'We have either to translate 
"laborare est orare" into modern English and mould our civilisa- 
tion upon it, or else acknowledge as pretentious survivals every 
remaining bastion of the Christian culture.' 1 

(c) A morality for group living which will guide collective 
decisions in the economic and political spheres must be given 
content. For modern man, for all his boasted freedom of thought 
and opinion, finds himself commonly compelled to do what 
society does. The collective character of much of modern life 
with its political parties, trade unions, employers' and professional 
associations, restricts the freedom of the individual to take 
independent decisions and reduces his power to influence effectively 
positions taken by the group. The situation engenders moral 
perplexities, the individual seeing small connexion between 
Christian morality as ordinarily presented and the pressing 
problems of his daily life. Ethical guidance for group living 
and a moral strategy and tactics for the Christian minority 
inevitably involved in the complex movement of a secular 
society must be devised. For such a charge, clerical professors of 
Social Ethics, general formularies and theoretical discussions have 
limited usefulness, it was asserted. The experience of those in- 
volved in the complexities of modern society must be considered. 
Nor will counselling the ordinary human virtues of honesty, 
industry and decency suffice. There are situations, and Christian 
living in a secular world is one of them, where the natural virtues 
(as Nurse Edith Cavell remarked of patriotism) are 'not 

(d) There are inescapable political tasks, as well. Contemporary 
social problems are so complicated, overwhelming and stubborn, 
that there is a temptation for the Christian to abandon the field, 
taking refuge in the lazy belief that religion has nothing to do 
with the market-place but is the use one makes of one's solitude. 
'There is,' remarked Dr. Oldham, 'a pietistic as well as a liberal 
laissez-faire. However pious the intention, it is a denial of God's 
1 CDS, p. 131. 


reign in the world, of the Lordship of Christ over history.' 1 
This intellectual absenteeism and moral abstentionism have 
deprived modern civilization of ingredients essential to social 
cohesiveness and left a vacuum to be filled by doctrines and 
policies of naked power. 2 

Primary among the political tasks Dr. Oldham saw confronting 
the Church was that of clarifying the issues involved in 'the 
tension between the western democracies and Soviet Russia and 
its satellites'. The essential question, in Oldham's judgment, 
turns not on political or economic systems but on the struggle 
between totalitarianism and the ideas of a free society, 3 a contest 
being waged in greater or lesser degree in every nation. For the 
creation of that Free Society, 4 that fit arrangement of all the 
proper social elements, the Christian must labour for the effective 
honouring of several essential conditions. There must be freedom 
of conscience, freedom to seek and speak the truth, freedom of 
dissent; there must be a prizing of personal relations above mere 
collective contacts; there must be a careful limitation of power 
and a dispersal of its control, an independence in the religious, 
cultural, political and economic activities of the community; 
there must be a just distribution of the material rewards of 
industrial production; finally there must be genuine political 
freedom based on popular sovereignty. 

It will be clear how Oldham's contribution shaped the 

1 CDS, p. 138. 

2 'It may be regarded as axiomatic that the less a community is held together by 
cohesive forces in the texture of its life, the more must it be held together by power.' 
Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, p. 114. Niebuhr 
notes only two minimal forces of cohesion in the international community: 'a common 
over-tone of universality in its moral ideals, and the fear of anarchy. The fear of anarchy 
will undoubtedly be the more potent of these two; but this fear is certainly not as powerful 
as the fear of a. common and a concrete foe.' Ibid., p. 115. Another theologian notes: 'The 
greater the decline in the moral vigour of society, the more tasks the State must take upon 
itself, and the greater the expansion of the element of compulsion in justice, the nearer 
the approach to the totalitarian State.' Emil Brunner, Justice and the Social Order, p. 182. 

3 'It is necessary to distinguish between communism as a political and economic system 
and as a totalitarian control of life. From the former there may be much to be learnt; 
with the latter Christians can make no compromise.' CDS, p. 139. 

4 The term 'the Responsible Society' was substituted for 'the Free Society' to avoid 
confusion with the political systems of modern Western democracies. Ropke uses the 
term 'Civitas Humana', Lippman 'the Good Society', Popper 'the Open Society'. 


definition of Amsterdam's Section III Report. On the topic of 
popular sovereignty, moreover, lie had expressed a growing 
consensus of the Ecumenical Community. 1 

2. Fuller Exposition 

Subsumed under the general caption 'Christian Action in 
Society', the ideas broached by Oldham were developed by the 
World Council's Study Department which has endeavoured to 
expand them by posing some of the practical questions his 
socio-philosophical principles evoke. Four projects were under- 
taken to examine various phases of the implications of the 
Responsible Society; papers on these topics were circulated and 
study conferences arranged. The topics were identified in the 
Study Department's Report of its activities as entitled: (a) Moral 
Problems in Economic and Political Life Today; (6) The 
Responsible Society and European Problems; (c) The Witness 
of Christians in Communist Countries; and (d) The Responsibility 
of Christians for the Social Problems of the Underdeveloped 
Countries. 2 In more proximate preparations for Evanston, 
moreover, the Study Department issued a Memorandum on 
the Responsible Society which was reviewed in the summer of 
1953 by the Preparatory Commission for the Section on Social 
Questions. 3 

The Memorandum proposed to set forth in constructive terms 
possible answers to some of the questions that had been raised 
by the changes in political and economic life. Concerning political 
structures, the Evanston background document added the note 
of 'the rule of law ... to protect the rights of individual citizens 
and of minorities'. A warning against making the state co- 
extensive with the nation or with society was sounded and the 

1 Memorable is Niebuhr's epigram: 'Man's capacity for justice makes democracy 
possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.* Despite his 
celebrated insistence on the total transcendence of Christianity, Karl Barth believes: 
'When I consider the deepest and most central content of the New Testament exhortation, 
I should say that we are justified, from the point of view of exegesis, in regarding the 
"democratic conception of the State" as a justifiable expansion of the thought of the 
New Testament.' Church and State, p. 80. Cf. also John C. Bennett, Christian Ethics and 
Social Policy, pp. 85 ff. 

2 The First Six Years, p. 32. a The text is in ER vi (October 1953), *> PP- 73-90. 


existence of subordinate, semi-autonomous forms of association 
was indicated without further description of their role. 'The 
Church, the family and the university' are the examples given. 
The importance of the principle of voluntarism, of the possibility 
of popular community action, of the opportunities for the 
exercise of professional responsibility is included in germ, in this 
warning against the politicizing of life. The principle of the 
competence and liability of these 'forms of association' has 
possible application to the economic field as well, where trade 
unions and employers' organizations surely fulfil the description 
given and might, in consequence, be given legal functions to 
perform. The possibility of peaceful political change, the 
Preparatory Commission believed, requires effective popular 
participation in political parties and the establishment of machinery 
for the progressive transfer of sovereignty to colonial peoples, 
within the structure of international law, in recognition of their 
right to national freedom and social justice. 

In the economic realm the concept of the Responsible Society 
supplied, in the view of the Preparatory Commission, 'no single 
criterion by which we can determine exactly how far the state 
should go in extending its functions'. Among the necessary 
functions listed are the prevention of serious depression or 
inflation, the relief of the consequences of unemployment, 
sickness, industrial injury and old age. Furthermore, the State, 
as the trustee of society, is assigned the duty of policing 
private-interest groups. For while the State may grow to be 
the enemy of freedom, it was held to be the only instrument by 
which real freedom for large sections of the population is made 

It had been almost customary in some church circles to con- 
demn the profit-motive as 'unchristian'. The pre-Evanston 
Memorandum declared simply and realistically: 'An economic 
system exists for the maximum production of goods and services 
at lowest cost to meet consumers' needs', and noted that such an 
objective raises complicated problems of priorities whose possi- 
bilities can only be assessed in the light of technical knowledge 


illumined by Christian insights. An example was given of a 
government policy of full employment with resulting risk of 
inflation. Factors deterniining the just distribution of wealth 
were recognized as multiple, a proper reward for incentive being 
acknowledged as having its proper place, though the imperilling of 
political institutions and the destruction of the possibility of true 
fellowship between nations as well as between individuals was 
noted as the inevitable consequences of great contrasts between 
rich and poor. 

The Memorandum underlined the need of flexibility and 
adaption in economic relations, supported necessary State inter- 
vention in the economic process while maintaining the importance 
of the private sector of the economy. Some countries, it was 
pointed out, need 'entrepreneurs to be adventurous and to take 
risks so as to bring about technical and economic innovations'; 
in others 'socially responsible management' is called for. 1 
Agriculture in some countries needs modernization of its equip- 
ment and Government-guaranteed price-supports against disas- 
trous fluctuation both of climate and of supply and demand. 
And the consumer must be protected against exploitation. 
'Rules of the game' must be developed if all sectors of the 
population producers and consumers, employers and labour, 
agriculture and industry are to enjoy a common prosperity, 
economic freedom is to be preserved and the abuses of economic 
power controlled. An interesting development of the application 
of 'guaranteed rules of the game' concerns the participation of 
labour in the management of enterprises whether the arrangement 
be called joint production committees, industrial councils, 
comitfa d'entreprise, or Mitbestimmung. In the view of the Pre- 
paratory Commission the churches should welcome this develop- 
ment which, at the same time, calls for the spirit of responsibility 
and more factual knowledge. 2 Finally, since economic activity 

1 And some countries need both, it might be added. 

* The Chairman of Amsterdam's Section III, Dr. C. L. Patijn, a professional economist 
and an official of a government which has legally established employer-worker committees, 
saw 'no hope' in such councils of collaboration since 'they would shift the burden of price 
increases on to the consumer'. CDS, p. 167. 


today lias world-wide repercussions, the trade policies of some 
countries and the emigration possibilities of others have moral 
import. International co-operation and integration, along with 
assistance to underdeveloped countries, were deemed moral 
imperatives in the light of the insights and goals of the Responsible 

Indeed the Memorandum of the Preparatory Commission 
invited the churches to study a programme of a concentrated 
series of specific problems connected with the underdeveloped 
countries, problems that can only be considered and coped with 
by international action. Listed, with some of their ethical and 
economic implications, were the complex issues of (i) proper 
political institutions, (2) land reform and rural development, 
(3) industrialization, (4) population pressures, (5) responsibilities 
attendant on independence, (6) the competition of communism, 
religious nationalism and the need of Western understanding. 

3 . Towards Definition 

The Preparatory Commission's Memorandum served as the 
frame and supplied most of the ideas for the Section Report at 
Evanston. The fact was inevitable: a group of a hundred people 
of differing interests and confessional allegiances, coming from 
different countries and meeting together only a few times, can 
scarcely be expected to compound an original and comprehensive 
declaration. Moreover, as Dean Walter G. Muelder urged, there 
was need of discussing the meaning of the Responsible Society 
before examining its applications. And the content of the concept, 
most particularly its basis, has not been thought out, being 
irretrievably involved in. the moot question of the social philosophy 
of the World Council's judgments on the social order. 

Evanston represented an advance over Amsterdam, it can be 
said, in acknowledging the crucial importance of institutions in 
affecting social living and in achieving justice. Means must be 
devised to strengthen the family and other subordinate social 
groups, it was argued. 'No one form of government/ it was 
explained, 'has a universal claim on Christians. . . . The Church 


camiot uncritically support any particular form of [economic] 
organization as it exists in any particular country.' A more 
positive role was accorded to the State, though its 'action needs 
to be decentralized, limited and adaptable'. Examples of areas 
where State initiative was found warranted were: planning for 
urban development, stimulating industrial expansion and soil 
conservation, some types of large-scale industrial and agricultural 
research and guidance of the distribution of industry. On the 
other hand, concern was expressed in the Section discussions over 
allegedly totalitarian trends in the Welfare State. 'A status in 
society' was claimed for the worker, the justice of the farmers' 
demand for a reasonable measure of security was recognized. 
The interrelation .of national and international policies was 

The problems of the underdeveloped areas of the world were 
given major attention in the Evanstoii Report, the issues men- 
tioned following the lines of the Memorandum of the Preparatory 
Commission. Absentee landlordship and other unjust forms of 
land tenure and privilege were decried and positive measures 
fostering productive land use and community life endorsed. 
Thus, social and agricultural education, co-operatives, rural 
industry, facilities for credit and professional assistance were 
recommended. The possibility of finding capital for necessary 
industrial development within the country without depressing 
standards of consumption, or of obtaining foreign loans without 
endangering social objectives was discussed. 

Focusing attention on the underdeveloped areas is an obvious 
consequence of the missionary concern of the Ecumenical 
Community throughout the world. Incorporating the findings 
of the Lucknow Study Conference, the Evanston Report 
questioned the attitude of Western Christians, particularly business 
men, towards Asia. It challenged, furthermore, the compre- 
hension of the social implication of Christianity by the churches 
in former mission territories. For persistent effort to realize 
always more fully the ideals of the Responsible Society is the 
inescapable obligation of every Christian such is the underlying 


conviction of the World Council of Churches who must go 
beyond vain protest and cowardly surrender to bring stones for 
the building of a Temporal City which will manifest in its cultural 
life, economic practices and political institutions that the message 
of the gospel has at least been preached. 


Having termed the social situation best answering the demands 
of the Christian perspective 'The Responsible Society', the First 
Assembly of the World Council of Churches identified the forces 
opposed to the realization of this ecjuiubrium of liberty and 
justice, this organized interplay of freedom and order, as 
communism and capitalism. It found points of conflict between 
Christianity and each, and condemned the ideologies of both. 1 
The World Council's Second Assembly, held in 1954, renewed 
the earlier judgment on Marxist ideology and totalitarian 
practice; it found no occasion to reaffirm its censure of capitalism, 
noting that 'the capitalism of today is very different from the 
capitalism of even twenty or thirty years ago'. 2 

The debate on capitalism and communism seems pretty well 
adjourned in World Council circles. An analysis of its origins 
and implications reveals, however, the development of thought 
in the Ecumenical Community, the difficulties of ecumenical 
dialogue (as well as of comprehending its approach on the part 
of secular forces) and the differing points of view, not only 
between the years 1948 and 1954, but between Americans and 

1 In the rejection of the ideology of capitalism, the adjective "laissez-faire* was added 
(by a Plenary Session considering the Report of Section II on Evangelism) under circum- 
stances related earlier (cf. supra, p. 45 n.2). The adjective is italicized in the printed Report. 
The Secretary of the Amsterdam Section HI denied that the addition of the words 'laissez- 
faire' radically changed the intention of the paragraph and felt that the 'actual sentences of 
the Report were not unfair to American capitalism*. John C. Bennett, 'Capitalism and 
Communism at Amsterdam', Christian Century LXV (December 15, 1948), 50, p. 1364. 

2 The editor of the Evanston documents states: 'The report [of die Section on Social 
Questions] does not reverse the Amsterdam criticisms of the ideology of "laissez-faire 
capitalism". However, it recognizes that the old dispute between "capitalism." and 
"socialism" has become more verbal than real.' Evanston Speaks, pp. 43-4. But the dispute 
at Amsterdam was between laissez-faire capitalism and communism. 


Europeans in the same international organization. 1 An examina- 
tion of the point is indicated. 

The paragraphs on capitalism and communism proved to be 
the most controversial of all the statements issuing from, the 
"World Council's First Assembly. Complaints were undoubtedly 
inevitable: in the divided world of 1948, the repeated insistence 
that the Church stood above all economic systems, apart from 
all political blocs, could scarcely be expected to content the 
determined partisans of either camp. Part of the dissatisfaction, 
it must be added, flowed from the obscurity of the phrasing, 
reflecting an uncertainty as to what precisely was being analysed. 
Quite possibly the Drafting Committee preferred not to be 

The choice of words was unfortunate. 'Capitalism', not least 
in Europe and Asia, is a term so charged with emotional con- 
notations, so depreciated by demagogy, that its meaning is muddy. 
It is generally associated with the stereotype of callous manipula- 
tors of the financial markets, all-powerful, malign individuals, 
subject to no social sanction, who boss governments and public 
opinion and, by their control of the levers of industry and credit, 
ruthlessly exploit colonial peoples and the working class for 
their personal profit. 2 'Communism', especially in America, is 

1 Professor Bennett declared as an indisputable fact that the thinking on economic 
questions in the churches of other countries 'is quite far to the left of most thinking in 
American Protestant circles', and, in consequence, without the paragraphs on capitalism 
and communism 'the Report would not be adequate as an ecumenical document as, in 
fact, it proved to be'. Op. cit., p. 1362. Perhaps the difference of outlook can be glimpsed 
by recalling that the word bourgeois has no exact English equivalent, being employed 
(always in the pejorative sense) in the idiom of intellectuals. On the other hand, George 
Kennan has pointed out, 'The Russian language, in fact, never acquired a word com- 
parable to our expression "business man"; it had only the word for "merchant" and this 
term did not always have a pleasant connotation.' 'America and the Russian Future", in 
Foreign Affairs xxix (April 1951), 3, P- 3<53! reprinted in American Dip lotnacy, 1900-1950, 
p. 131. 

* Professor Bennett indicated his awareness of the equivocal understanding of the term 
when he remarked that Europeans 'think of Capitalism as a spiritual phenomenon in- 
formed by the bourgeois mentality, as extreme individualism. In America we usually 
think of Capitalism in external and institutional terms as a mechanism for producing 
and distributing goods that is capable of indefinite modification.' Op. cit. Fearing that 
if the term 'Capitalism* was employed at Evanston in any fashion, it would occasion 
misunderstanding, the same writer explained that: 'The word in this country points to 
a highly successful economic system which has proved it can be modified in the interests 


a term evoking the phantasm of 180 Soviet divisions, poised 
for an invasion of the West, and of concealed traitors in high 

Section Ill's terms of reference did not include a consideration 
of international problems. Unhappily 'communism' and 'capital- 
ism' were the propaganda slogans of mutual recrimination 
current in the cold war. Whether they liked it or not, the Draft- 
ing Committee of Section III, charged with economic, political 
and cultural questions, seemed to he appraising the moral worth 
of the social systems of the United States and the Soviet Union. 
It might have been more satisfactory if it had done so forthrightly 
instead of analysing social categories in a historical vacuum. 

i. 'Capitalism as Economic Individualism 

The strictures on 'capitalism' reveal that it was the complexus 
of political doctrines and economic practices accompanying and 
accelerating the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century 
which the Amsterdam Report judged. Historians and political 
scientists commonly call the first Liberalism and the second 
Economic Individuahsm. These nineteenth-century theorists 
and practitioners would have gladly pleaded guilty to the 
Amsterdam indictment of promising that justice will follow as 
a by-product of free enterprise'. Where did such doctrines and 
such practices prevail on the contemporary scene? What specific 
changes had occurred in modern times in the economic systems 
and political institutions of what the Oxford Conference of 1937 
referred to as 'the so-called capitalist countries'? 1 Curiously 
enough, the question of which countries had corrected earlier 

of justice against all the predictions of those who have been influenced by Marxism. But in 
most other countries Capitalism is a bad symbol. In Europe it suggests economic exploita- 
tion, a doctrinaire individualism and a middle-class form of materialism. In Asia it 
suggests imperialism above everything else.' 'The Responsible Society at Evanston' in 
Christianity and Crisis xrv (July 12, 1954), 12, p. 91. 

1 Amsterdam was disappointingly vague. The Report had earlier acknowledged that: 
'In all parts of the world new controls have in various degrees been put upon the free play 
of economic forces,' adding- 'The developments of capitalism vary from country to 
country and often the exploitation of the workers that was characteristic of early capital- 
ism has been corrected in considerable measure by the influence of trade unions, social 
legislation and responsible management. But . . .' Amsterdam, pp. 76, 80. 


abuses and which had not seems not to have been asked. The 
Minutes of the six meetings of the Section contain no hint of 
such a point being raised in any of the discussions. 

In the preparatory volume, comparing the American 'liberal 
capitalist society of free enterprise' and the British experiment 
of 'democratic socialism* with the situation in the Soviet Union, 
Dr. Joseph H. Oldham had argued: 'There is nothing which 
distinguishes the outlook that has been described from the 
ambition of state planners to shape history by means (in the 
phrase of Engels) of "a collective will according to an all- 
embracing plan".' 1 'The outlook that has been described' is that 
diagnosed in a doctoral thesis studying the policies of the National 
Association of Manufacturers, a private organization of American 
industrialists, given to opposing trade unions, to publicity 
campaigns of self-adulation and to welfare grants to employers 
for their (alleged) ideological indoctrination. 2 On the other 
hand, a professional economist, in his contribution to the back- 
ground volume, was under no illusions about the existence of a 
calcified capitalistic system rigidly controlled, by business men. 
Dr. C. L. Patijn observed that economic structures are in rapid 
evolution, that the social crisis manifests itself precisely in the 
painful process of adaption to a new economic equilibrium, 
quoting with approbation the judgment: 'The age of "free 
enterprise", when the new vitalities of a technical civilisation 

1 CDS, p. 145. 

2 The source is given as Business as a System of Power, by Robert A. Brady. Whether 
the author accurately appraised the success of the NAM in influencing substantially 
American society, not to speak of controlling government decisions, was for Dr. Oldham 
(and presumably the university examiners) to determine. The book was published in a 
year when Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated at a political convention where 'clear 
it with. Sidney' (Sidney A. Hillman, a labour leader) was the cue for important decisions 
and was elected for the fourth time against the opposition, for the fourth time, of the NAM. 
The citation was put in evidence in a year when Harry S. Truman was elected despite the 
opposition of the NAM. Dr. Oldham should not have supposed that a study of the National 
Association of Manufacturers was a study of the outlook of even the business community 
of the United States. Paul G. Hoffman, President of the Committee for Economic 
Development, another organization of industrialists, was serving as head of the European 
Recovery Programme. As for the significance and effectiveness of pretentious pubhc- 
relations programmes extolling the sanctities of economic liberalism, a Fortune magaane 
research study revealed that reactionary industrialists were wasting their time and money. 
The study was published as: Is Anybody Listening? ed. William H. Whyte, Jr. 


were expected to regulate themselves, is over.' 1 A document 
issued by the World Council Study Department four years after 
Amsterdam, observing the necessity 'to be clear about the nature 
of the social changes which have taken place in recent decades', 
remarks: 'A strong case can be made for the idea that pure 
laissez-faire capitalism has disappeared.' 2 The case could have 
been suggested in 1948 by any delegate to the Assembly who 
asked himself if any contemporary government in the world 
was the political expression of such a viewpoint, owed its existence 
to such forces or was prepared to defend such practices before the 
electorate. 3 

Undefined and unidentified, capitalism was judged in the 
Report to be in conflict with Christianity on the following 

1. Capitalism tends to subordinate what should be the primary 
task of any economy the meeting of human needs to the economic 
advantages of those who have most power over its institutions. 

2. It tends to produce serious inequalities. 

3. It has developed a practical form of materialism in western 
nations in spite of their Christian background, for it has placed the 
greatest emphasis upon success in making money. 

4. It has also kept the people of capitalist countries subject to a 
kind, of fate which has taken the form of such social catastrophes 
as mass unemployment. 4 

1 CDS, p. i<5<5. Dr. Patijii was quoting Reinhold Niebuhr's Discerning the Signs of the 
Times, p. 40. 
1 The Responsible Society in a World Perspective (Introductory Leaflet No. 3), p. 5, 

3 In 1954 Professor Bennett chided Americans for forgetting that Capitalism 'ever had a 
distinctive ideology, except for the libertarians of Christian Economics who are now 
reviving the doctrine of economic freedom in such extreme terms that they reject almost 
the whole development of the economic activities of government'. Op. cit. The reference 
is to a right-wing minority group of Protestants in the United States who equate Christi- 
anity with 'free enterprise', i.e. with economic liberalism. 

4 Amsterdam, p. 80. Reinhold Niebuhr, the key person of the Fellowship of Socialist 
Christians, a group accepting Marx's economic analysis, to which the writer of these 
paragraphs of the Amsterdam Report belonged, remarked on the irony involved in the 
customary condemnation of 'the profit motive' by clerics: 'Every parson who speaks 
grandly about supplanting [it] exemplifies it when he moves to a new charge because the 
old one did not give him ... a salary adequate for his growing family. . . . The so-called 
"profit motive" can hardly be eliminated under any system ' Christian Century LXX 
(August 19, 1953), 33, p. 937. The comment might just possibly illumine the third of the 
points of the conflicts between capitalism and Christianity listed above. 


Clearly, it is a philosophy of life (whatever its actuality) rather 
than an economic system (wherever existing) that is being here 

The treatment of the subject of 'capitalism' at Amsterdam, 
because of its omissions and imprecision, must be deemed less 
than satisfactory. Considered as an economic order under which 
economic goods are used for the production of other goods rather 
than consumed for immediate enjoyment, capitalism is an in- 
nocent, even necessary technique of production. In a passing 
remark the economist, Patijn, characterized the Soviet system as 
'State-Capitalism'. For capital in the form of savings or antici- 
pated savings (as credit or slave labour) is essential to production, 
whatever the economic regime. The seed corn that is eaten cannot 
be harvested. Having earlier declared its incompetence to resolve 
the debate between the advocates of socialism and the defenders 
of a regime of private property, the Assembly of the World 
Council of Churches had disqualified itself from judging the 
economic systems of capitalism and communism. 

The language of the indictment, moreover, makes it clear that 
the accusation was directed against the ideological engine of 
nineteenth-century liberalism which, shattering the brakes of 
social controls imposed by moral considerations outside its orbit, 
'tended to' and indeed did drive the mechanism of production 
and trade roughshod over the defenceless and the downtrodden. 
That correctives, arising even from the intrinsic contradiction 
of that philosophy, its essentially anti-human character, could 
check and control these tendencies, had seemingly not occurred 
to Karl Marx. These might have been noted in 1948 by the 
Amsterdam delegates in connexion with point two on the 'serious 
inequalities' produced by capitalism. The daily Press supplied 
regular accounts of the effects of nationalization of industry, 
continuing war-time price controls, government supervision 
of credit terms, taxation planned designedly to distribute the 
national wealth, expanding social services including subsidies 
for higher education. Indeed the fear was widely expressed that 
the sources of risk capital were being dried up by confiscatory 


taxation and that incentive was being smothered by a programme 
of social egalitarianism that haded 'The Century of the Common 
Man'. Political partisanship might cheer or view with alarm 
such policies; there was little doubt that they were permanent 
features of the societies of what the Oxford Conference had 
referred to as the 'so-called capitalist countries'. 1 

Certainly there are grave injustices in the distribution of 
income in 'the so-called capitalist countries' requiring radical 
correcting. By its omission of serious historical study, however, 
Amsterdam offered no hint as to how this situation had come 
about; by its looseness of language, its opting for a term of 
pejorative connotation, it had left the impression, moreover, that 
an economic order recognizing private property rather than a 
political doctrine, a cultural inheritance and a philosophy nullify- 
ing a sane functioning of that order, was responsible. The Oxford 
Conference of 1937 had also passed up the task of historical 
research. It had, on the other hand, escaped the confusion of 
seeming to assess the causes for the present state of the world by 
contenting itself with a listing of contemporary social evils 
which it identified with 'certain features of modern life in the 
so-called capitalist countries'. 2 Furthermore, noting that 'there 
is today no one economic order which oecumenical Christianity 
faces', the Oxford Conference observed that: 'The subordination 
of God's purpose for human life to the demands of the economic 
process seems in practice to be a tendency common to all existing 
kinds of economic organization.' 3 

2. Communism or 'Stalinism'? 
When the Amsterdam Report came to discuss 'Communism' 

1 The candidate of the Conservative political group, Dwight D. Eisenhower, declared 
during the US Presidential election campaign of 1952 that the social gains achieved by 
the American people are 'not only here to stay but to be improved and extended'. 

2 Oxford, p. 88. The Main Report on 'Church, Community and State in Relation to 
the Economic Order' lists these evils as: (a) The Enhancement of Acquisitiveness, (b) 
Inequalities, (c) Irresponsible Possession of Economic Power, and (rf) The Frustration of 
the Sense of Christian Vocation. The Report indicated, moreover, the positive achieve- 
ments of this economic order. 

3 Ibid. 


it seemed to have in mind what a later document 1 of the "World 
Council called simply 'Stalinism' the political regime of the 
Soviet Union, directing revolutionary groups in all countries 
and pursuing policies of decisive international significance. 
This rather than a speculative philosophy or academic economic 
order is obviously the contemporary reality which 'makes a 
strong appeal to the populations of Asia and Africa and to racial 
minorities everywhere'. The Report confessed with contrition 
to the involvement of many churches 'in the forms of economic 
injustice and racial discrimination favouring [its] growth' and 
acknowledged that '[its] atheism and the anti-religious teaching 
are in part a reaction to the chequered record of a professedly 
Christian society'. 2 It declared that this reality has filled 'a moral 
and psychological vacuum' among youth who often fail to find 
in church circles 'the appeal that can evoke a disciplined, purpose- 
ful and sacrificial response', and among the working class and 
tenant farmers who 'came to believe that the churches -were 
against them or indifferent to their plight'. 

The points of conflict between Christianity and 'the atheist 
Marxian Communism 3 of our day' were listed as: 

1. The Communist promise of what amounts to a complete 
redemption of man in history. 

2. The belief that a particular class by virtue of its role as the 

1 The Second Report of the Advisory Commission on the Main Theme of the Second Assembly 
of the World Council of Churches (Geneva: World Council, 1952). 

2 Admitting 'the special importance of the absence of effective social idealism in any 
of the Christian Churches' as a cause of the anti-religious character of the radical revolu- 
tionary movements of Europe, a church historian attributes this spirit also to 'the growth 
of the scientific temper and of nineteenth-century materialism, to the prevalence of the 
mechanistic conception of life which industrialism fosters, to the determinism of the 
Hegelian philosophy in which Marx had been trained, to the bare fact that the leaders of 
the movement were not religious men'. H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of 
Denominationalism, p. 72. 

8 At the risk of seeming pedantic and even precious, the writer would observe that if 
'Stalinism' is the reality under discussion the owner of the ideological franchise of that 
system, losif Visarionovich Dzugashvili, employed the term 'Scientific Socialism' 
and insisted that the transformation to communism was impossible before certain, func- 
tional prerequisites were achieved, notably reducing the working day to six and then to 
five hours, introducing 'universal obligatory polytechnical education' and improving 
radically housing conditions. The real wages of workers must first be at least doubled 
before the transition to communism can occur, Stalin claimed. 


bearer of a new order is free from the sins and ambiguities that 
Christians believe to be characteristic of all human existence. 

3. The materialistic and deterministic teachings, however they 
may be qualified, that are incompatible with belief in God and with 
the Christian view of man as a person, made in God's image and 
responsible to Him. 

4. The ruthless methods of Communists in dealing with their 

5. The demand of the party on its members for an exclusive and 
unqualified loyalty which belongs only to God, and the coercive 
policies of Communist dictatorship in controlling every aspect of 
life. 1 

The Report condemned the ideology of communism observing 
that it had made the false promise that freedom would come 
'after the completion of the revolution'. 

As in the paragraph on capitalism the imprecision of concept 
here is disconcerting. Neither the Amsterdam background volume 
nor the Minutes of the meetings of the Section manifest the 
desired clarity on the identity much less the historical and 
philosophical origins and present policy of this second menace 
to 'The Responsible Society' called 'Communism'. To be sure, 
in the key chapter of the preparatory study outlining the nature 
of a social order reverencing both freedom and order, Dr. Oldliam 
had declared flatly: 'It has been our aim to show that the conflict 
between liberty and totalitarianism is not identical with the 
international tension between the Western democracies and the 
communist societies under the leadership of Russia.' 2 Yet apart 
from repeated references to unspecified pre-totalitarian tendencies 
in the Western democracies, the chapter whatever its aim, had, 
by its illustrations, at least identified contemporary totalitarianism 
with the Soviet Union. 

The questions transmitted unhappily involved almost a defini- 
tion of the topic under discussion. 3 What precisely is 'communism', 

1 Amsterdam, p. 79. a CDS, p. 153. 

8 A decisive instance of the ambiguity arising from the decision to omit any serious 
historical investigation is found in the same chapter: 'There is no space to consider here, 
important as the question is, what relative importance is to be attached to the present 


this 'powerful ferment throughout the world'? Is it, as 
other references in the volume suggest, a popular preference 
for economic democracy paralleling Western emphasis on. 
political democracy; Is it basically a manifestation of traditional 
Russian imperialism, exploiting local unrest for ancient Tsarist 
objectives? What connexion has the term with the meeting held 
in Poland on October 5, 1947, where representatives of nine 
European countries revived an organization known as a Com- 
munist International? A Soviet commissar, Andrei A. Zhdanov, 
presided at this meeting which established the Cominform. 

Amsterdam's Section III devoted two-and-a-half hours on the 
morning of August 27, 1948, to a discussion on the nature and 
causes of communism, the responsibility and involvement of the 
churches in the problem, the conflict between communism and 
Christianity and the question of human rights. The Minutes 
reveal the same imprecision as in the use of the term 'capitalism'. 
Seemingly the word 'Soviet' was not employed during the entire 
discussion, whatever be the significance to be attached to that 
omission in a debate on 'Communism'. A delegate experienced 
in UN affairs observed that the greatest difficulty in dealing 
with Communists, 'especially with Russian Communists', in 
that organization was the uncertainty of their trustworthiness, 
suggesting by his remark the possibility of varieties of communism 
with, at least in the UN, different policies but with common 
human weaknesses. An Indonesian delegate attributed the 
strength of communism in his country to 'the clear line taken by 
Moscow' in the struggle for independence. 

These are the only references recorded in the Secretary's Minutes 
indicating a connexion between the historical phenomenon 

ascendancy of a communist ideology in comparison with the deeper and more enduring 
forces of the character, environment, tradition and historical experience of the Russian 
people; nor, in spite of its relevance to present poEtical realities, the question how far the 
original purpose of Marxism to deliver the workers from economic exploitation has 
been replaced by a rigid system controlled by a relatively small political elite and directed 
to the expansion of Russian power. What we are concerned with in this chapter is the 
Christian attitude to the conception of life implied in communism, which is a powerful 
ferment throughout the world and aims at a complete transformation of human existence.' 
Ibid., pp. 138-9. 


called 'Communism' and the Soviet Union. The delegates 
present from the People's Democracies of Eastern Europe had 
no contributions to offer apparently. A delegate from Finland 
condemned communism utterly and recommended that Chris- 
tians supporting it should join the Social Democratic Party; his 
reasoning, however, looked wholly to the relations of the two 
political parties to the Church and ignored the factor of extra- 
national loyalties. The only speaker to suggest that communism 
had a conspiratorial character was a Manchunan who remarked 
that much of the appeal of communism lay in its secrecy, which 
offered excitement and interest particularly to the young. The 
view was expressed that communism was the specific fruit of 
Western injustice, a political totalitarianism making headway in 
creeping form in the United States and Switzerland. It should 
be fought, another delegate believed, by opposing centralization 
everywhere. The recognition of the obligation of the Church to 
interest itself in the people attracted by communism, to rid itself 
in Asia and Africa of all seeming association with Western interests, 
especially economic ones, to issue a challenging appeal for 
sacrificial service which alone could satisfy modern youth, were 
among the desiderata expressed. The final speaker underlined the 
necessity to formulate a Christian sociology and philosophy of 
law. Neither the discussions in the Section nor the words of the 
Report reveal any fear that the reality termed 'Communism' 
constituted a military menace. Yet six months before, on 
February 29, four days after the Communist coup in Czecho- 
slovakia, the Premiers and Foreign Ministers of the Netherlands, 
Belgium and Luxemburg met in Brussels to accept the Anglo- 
French proposal for a union of Western Europe 1 which was 
formalized in the fifty-year security pact signed on March 17 
and which was promptly used as the basis for energetic efforts 
to obtain the collaboration of the United States in a military 
defence programme. 2 

1 The Chairman of Section III, an official of Holland's Foreign Ministry, can certainly 
not be accused of seeking to influence the Assembly in favour of his government's 

* As is clear from the Diaries of the US Secretary of Defence James V. Forrestal. 


3. The Amsterdam Verdicts Explained 

The accusation was made 1 that Amsterdam had equated 
'communism' and 'capitalism' as twin perils to a society satisfy- 
ing Christian demands, had appraised their achievements as 
equally negative, had manifested a studied neutrality or, worse, 
a callous indifference to the over-riding issue of the times. There 
is no evidence that the charge particularly disturbed the World 
Council of Churches. The accusations were warranted at least 
in their assumption that Amsterdam expressed no preference 
as it confronted the realities of political institutions, economic 
practices and cultural values represented by the Liberal demo- 
cracies and the Communist societies of the East. Such an attitude 
was the result of a policy, even if uiiformulated, of a decision, 
even if undiscussed, of an attitude, even if unanalysed. The 
year, it is important to remember, was 1948. How account for 
the position, lacking in realism when reviewed from the vantage- 
point of six years' further experience, adopted by the First 
Assembly of the World Council of Churches? Several reasons 
may be suggested. 

i. The conviction that the Christian religion is above all 
political forms, is essentially uncommitted to a specific economic 
order. At Amsterdam the World Council of Churches did not 
consider itself 'the Church' several changes to the plural were 
incorporated in the Reports (e.g. 'The Christian churches 
should . . .') to make that clear but an association, a fellowship 
of ecclesiastical communions for stated purposes. As an expression 
of the qualified unity thus organizationally expressed, as well as 
to protect die independence of policy of its member churches, 
the World Council was determined to remain above the issues 
involved in the East- West debate. 2 In addition to the belief in 

1 By, among others, Stefan Osusky, former Czech. Ambassador to France and England 
in The Way of the Free, pp. 163 ff., a book described by Sumner Welles as 'a major 
contribution to the political literature of our time'. Dr. Osusky is an ordained Lutheran 
minister. The Secretary of the World Council's Department on Church and Society 
acknowledged that the Amsterdam Report 'over-simplified the world's major political 
conflict by seeming to identify one side with Communism and the other with Capitalism'. 
Paul Abrecht, ER VI (October 1953), I, p. a8. 

4 In the early months of die Second World War, during the Soviet invasion of Finland, 
'a well-informed ecumenical source' (said to be the General Secretary who had just 


the supra-temporal nature of the Christian religion, the "World 
Council was conscious of the specific theological posture of some 
of its member churches towards all political developments. 1 An 
expression of this attitude is found in a pastoral letter of Bishop 
Ladislas Ravasz of the Refqrmed Church of Hungary, a delegate 
to the Amsterdam Assembly. Choosing the text (i Thess.iv. n) 
'Study to he quiet and to do your own business and to work with 
your own hands,' the Bishop adverted: 'This word warns us that 
a pastor is not called upon to represent any secular ideology or to 
oppose such. The pastor's real task is to announce the evangelical 
conception of the world the world which has, to its own 
misfortune, drawn away from God.' 2 This position of neutralism 

returned from a meeting of the Administrative Committee) accounted for the 'silence 
[of the "World Council of Churches in Process of Formation] in the face of the inter- 
national situation', declaring: 'In answering this question we must start from the fact 
that the (Ecumenical Movement does not exist apart from the churches which compose 
it, for it is a fellowship and not a monarchical institution. An oecumenical pronouncement 
can, therefore, be made only when there is substantial agreement among the churches.' 
Quoted in EPS, January 1940, p. 2. 

x The Oxford Conference formulated this position as holding that 'there are no 
specifically Christian grounds and standards for the limitation of the State so long as the 
essential tasks of the Church itself are not involved. Christian freedom is an inner or 
eschatological freedom for which it is irrelevant how far the State extends its claims in 
the sphere of the social life The freedom of the natural man and his subordination to the 
commands of the State is a matter of political responsibility. . . . The Church has no 
authority to demand in the name of the Gospel any rights either for individuals or for 
human associations . . . The limits of its [the State] authority, however, have to be decided 
not from the standpoint of the Gospel or of the claims of the individual, but from that of 
the responsibility of the State to order and protect the'common life. It is enough if, without 
presuming to interfere in the province of political authority, the Church makes it its con- 
cern to care for the oppressed and persecuted in compassionate love,' Oxford, pp. 268-9. 

a EPS, January 1945, 3, p. 12. It is not to judge the attitude of any individual living under 
an alien occupation but because the metaphor employed intrigues the memory that the 
writer recalls the ban mot of P6guy : 'Ils ont les mains pures, mais ils n'ont pas de mains.' A 
pastoral letter of theBishops of theReformed Church in Hungary, issued on December 12, 
1939, had a somewhat different accent. Archbishop Erkki Kaila of Finland had launched 
an appeal for spiritual and material aid at the moment of the Soviet invasion, stating: 
'As we defend ourselves agauist the aggressor, we are also fighting against Bolshevism, 
the sworn enemy of Christianity. We feel that we are the advance guard of Western 
Christian civilization in the North. We have full confidence that the Christian Churches 
will not leave us to fight out this struggle alone.' In an answering pastoral the Hungarian 
Reformed Church expressed its sympathy and solidarity, announced services of public 
prayers of intercession 'for the Finnish people, and its Church, for the victory of its 
historically just cause' and arranged a special collection. Both documents are quoted in 
EPS, January 1940, i, p. 3 . When the German attack on the Soviet Union was under way, 
the Hungarian Reformed Mission Alliance declared: 'Now that the Crusade of Europe 
to wipe out Bolshevism is going on . . .' Quoted in EP5, October 1941, 34, p. 3. 


was also the result of the absence of any serious, large-scale 
conflicts between Protestantism and the communist regimes of 
Eastern Europe up to that time. 1 The Protestant principle, with 
its emphasis on the individual who encounters a forgiving God 
in the solitariness of His saving Word, does not, of its nature, 
demand multiple ecclesiastical institutions and an international 
administrative apparatus whose very existence and normal 
functioning involve it inexorably in all the currents of history. 2 

2. The determination of the delegates to the Amsterdam 
Assembly, being in very large part clerics and thus professionally 
pledged to the ministry of reconciliation, to avoid any stand 
that would increase East-West tension or hot up the cold war. 

3 . The desire to achieve or express a solidarity with the working 
class and colonial peoples. Ecclesiastical leaders of all denomina- 
tions in Europe are profoundly disturbed by the popular relega- 
tion of religion to the world of bourgeois culture; they are 
preoccupied with the loss 3 of the proletariat which they claim 
is a consequence of the alliance of the churches with reactionary 
forces in the nineteenth century; they are conscious that in 
mission lands national liberation movements have frequently 
identified Christianity with Western capitalism and have been 
supported by the Soviet Union. Whatever the ultimate allegiance 
of their local leaders, Communist Parties in many European 
countries have succeeded in attracting a popular protest vote of 
alarming proportions. At Amsterdam there was undoubtedly 
a proper concern lest any indication of even apparent partisanship 
should alienate the working class and colonial people further 
from the churches. 

4. The tragic experiences of delegates at Amsterdam including 

1 Except for the Lutheran Church in Hungary over the school question. 

a Thus, Karl Barth: 'L'Eglise existe Ih., ou I'homme e"coute Daeu . . . H n'y a aucune 
Eglise hors de cette relation.' Relation, Eglise, Theologie, pp. 30-1. 

8 'It is said that the Archbishop of Canterbury lamented to Disraeli, somewhere about 
1860, that "the Church had lost the towns". "Your Grace is mistaken," replied Disraeli, 
"the Church never had the towns.'" J. V. Langrnead Casserley, The Retreat from Chris- 
tianity in the Modem World, pp. 112-13. The working class was not 'lost', it never had 
much connexion with organized religion, from the time it came into existence between 
1830 and 1880. Among other factors there were inadequate religious facilities in the new 
industrial agglomerations. 


the Germans at the hands of Nazism. 'Communism' evoked 
memories for some of collaboration in the Resistance, for all 
of the Soviet Union's 'Great Patriotic War' which, had reduced 
the number of German bombers menacing European cities, 
withdrawn dozens of German divisions facing Allied armies and 
produced finally the common victory. 

5. The political preferences of the authors of the Report. 
Section III, it can be fairly said, was inspired by the almost 
mystical appeal of La Troisieme Force, its imagination caught up 
by the expectation of a dynamic, creative programme to be 
achieved mainly by Socialist political groups such as the British 
Labour Party. Socialism was favoured as a solution, if the 
political affiliation of the Chairman and the organizational 
allegiance of the Secretary are indicative. An Asian member of 
the Drafting Committee assured the Section that a rapid and 
thoroughgoing socialization in the West was the answer to 
communism and the means of creating conditions under which 
the message of the Church could be profitably heard in the 
non-Christian world. Marxist analysis offered for many an 
explanation of the disastrous instability of the world's economy 
between the two wars, years of widespread unemployment 
during which many of the Amsterdam delegates faced their 
early family or pastoral experiences. Disenchantment with the 
failure of the promises following 'a war to end war' was easily 
translated into a conviction that the pretensions of the Liberal 
society of the West were hypocritical, its basis a fraud. Such 
disillusionment tended to encourage a will to believe in the 
existence, if not of a Workers' Paradise in the Soviet Union, at 
least of a land of honest men bravely constructing a new society 
of equality and decency. Henry Wallace was by no means a 
solitary figure in 1948 in holding that, while political justice 
might characterize Western societies, economic justice was the 
achievement of the Soviets. 1 

1 Thus, Reinhold Niebuhr: 'Those of us who used Marxist collectivism to counter 
liberal individualism, Marxist catastrophism to counter liberal optimism and Marxist 
determinism to challenge liberal morahsm and idealism must admit that the "truths" 
which we used to challenge "error" turned out to be no more true (though also no less 


6. The absence of accurate information on the nature and 
functioning of contemporary communist societies. Here, again, 
the lack of resources for historical inquiry (or the decision that 
such a method elicited tendentious themes) handicapped the 
Amsterdam analyses. The difficulties, to be sure, were major. 
The nature of the communist regimes newly installed in East 
Europe escaped the comprehension of an outstanding expert on 
the area, Hugh Seton- Watson.. 1 If a specialist on an area could 
be deceived, it is perhaps not surprising that an editor of an 
American religious weekly, an alternate delegate to the Amster- 
dam Assembly, could make a rapid tour of East Europe and 
conclude that all was well. 2 The Secretary-General of the 
Hungarian Communist Party, Matyas Rakosi, had assured him 
in an interview that the regime had no malevolent dispositions 
towards religion, that it was, of course, having difficulties with 
one irascible prelate but that was because of his retrograde views 
and the support he was getting from fellow ecclesiastical con- 
spirators abroad. Time and the flow of events would supply 
much information missing at Amsterdam. 3 There was, it should 

true) than the liberal ones. But they were much more dangerous precisely because 
Marxism in its orthodox variety makes for a monopoly of political and economic power 
which is dangerous to justice, while a liberal society preserves the balance of power in the 
community which makes for justice, though there were and are some flagrant injustices 
as the result of a monopoly of economic power. Those of us who were critical of capital- 
ism were in short too uncritical of the Marxist alternative even when we rejected the 
Communist version of Marxism and espoused democratic Marxism. The present writer 
is ready to confess to his complicity m these errors.' In Christian Century LXX (August 19, 
I9S3), 33, P- 937- 

1 In a book reversing his former published opinions, the Oxford historian writes: 
'In an earlier work somewhat hurriedly composed in 1942-3 and dealing with the period 
between the two world wars, I was, I hope, reasonably well supplied with the first qualifi- 
cation [personal experience of Eastern Europe and knowledge of its background] and to a 
lesser extent with the second [close attention to current events over the period concerned] 
but completely lacked the third [study of the theory and practice of Russian bolshevism 
and European communism]. I knew nothing of Russian history, the Soviet regime or 
the organization of Communist Parties I had seen Communists in Eastern Europe only as 
martyrs of Fascist dictatorships, regarded with sympathy by many democratic intellectuals 
and discontented peasants.' The East European Revolution, p. Ix. 

2 Clifford P. Morehouse in The Living Church cxvn (October 5, 1948). *. PP- 6-13- 

8 Thus the same Matyas Rakosi in a speech AS Premier on February 29, 1952, described 
with disarming cynicism how the Hungarian Communist Party feigned coalition tactics 
to dispose of its partners in the government one by one. Summarizing a seven-year 
history Rakosi referred to the gradual, day-by-day slicing off of allies and potential 


be remembered, a fairly widespread disposition to regard 
Communists primarily if not exclusively as hardy social planners 
interested mainly in land reform with whom relations could be 
profitably conducted in the interest of a common effort at social 
amelioration. 1 

7. The aspirations of the Ecumenical Movement. Apart from 
the humane desire not to aggravate the difficulties of member 
churches living under (and in some cases co-operating with) 
Communist regimes, Amsterdam preferred to avoid an attitude 
which would impair the possibility of the future adherence to 
the World Council of the Russian Orthodox Church and the 
ecclesiastical communions owing allegiance to the Moscow 
Patriarchate, an adherence long desired in order to augment the 
geographical and confessional range of the Ecumenical Movement. 
This understandable sentiment was made explicit in the proposal 
by an English delegate during a plenary meeting that 'the 
Marxist Communism of our day', declared to be in conflict with 
Christianity in the Section III Report, should not be termed 
'atheistic'. 2 Nor should the general resentment of the World 
Council constituency over the repressive restrictions imposed 
by the Spanish Government on a small Protestant minority be 

"Whatever the intentions of the delegates to the World Council's 

victims as 'salami tactics'. He frankly admitted that the success of these tactics was 
possible only because 'the presence in the country of the Soviet Army precluded any 
attempt at armed rebellion' and because the Soviet Government shielded local 
Communist Party leadership 'from diplomatic interference of the great Western 
powers'. Without this assistance, he concluded, 'the Hungarian People's Democracy 
and we may well add, the others, too would never have been born'. New York Times, 
March i, 1952. 

1 This was the general attitude of the American people and certainly of its government 
up to 1947-8, argues former Ambassador John Leighton Stuart in his My Fifty Years in 
China. Nicolas Berdyaev, who at his death was a member of the Amsterdam Prepara- 
tory Commission III, had pointed out that 'Marxism in its Russian form proclaims the 
dominance of politics over economies' and this 'in spite of the doctrinaire understanding 
of Marxism' on the part of Russian revolutionary leaders. Berdyaev attributed this 
inversion (or subversion) of Marx's thought to Lenin who 'asserted the obvious primacy 
of politics over economies'. The Origin of Russian Communism, pp. 151, 170. 

2 'It might prove detrimental to the relations of the World Council and of individual 
Christians with the Russian people and the Russian Church. It was wrong to think 
that Russian Communism was anti-God.' Amsterdam, p. 84. The suggestion was ignored. 


First Assembly, whatever influences shaped their opinions, 1 they 
had found a double danger for the Responsible Society in two 
ideologies laissez-faire capitalism and communism which, 
by implication at least, they suggested were of equal menace 
and of equal actuality. 

4. Evanston Reassessments 

The counsel in the form of challenging questions which the 
Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches offered to 
Christians living either in a communist or a non-communist 
society will be considered later in the section on 'Corporate 
Christian Influence on Society'. By what it left unsaid, however, 
Evanston indicated that communism as an ideology and, more 
particularly, as a political reality is today generally recognized in 
ecumenical circles as a present danger to human freedom and 
religious liberty, while capitalism (which it termed 'the business 
system') is accorded a new respect. A larger experience, plus a 
determination to avoid abstractions of doubtful appositeness, 
explain in good part the change of focus. 

In the six intervening years the Ecumenical Community 
encountered 'Communism' more as an historical reality than as 
an ideology. The results were disturbing. The developments in 
the World Council's member churches in China, for example, 
were the subject of a discussion in camera at the meeting of its 
Central Committee in 1951. No published accounts exist on the 
information received on the changes in the ecclesiastical structure 
of those churches nor on the reasons for their publicly deplored 
absence from Evanston but it may be assumed that the reports 
were disquieting. The attacks on the Evangelical Youth Move- 
ment in the Soviet Zone of Germany, the culmination of a series 
of interferences in. church administration, shocked Karl Barth 

1 It is doubtful if any of the Amsterdam delegates were consciously reacting against the 
thesis first argued back in 1903 by Max "Weber in his Die Protestantische Ethik und far 
Geist des Kapitalismus. Any delegate embarrassed by the charge that the capitalistic spirit 
derived firom the Reformation would be aware of the subsequent revisions of the thesis 
in Professor R. H. Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (1926) and Professor 
Amintore Panfani's Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism (1938). 


into a protest addressed to the Minister of Security of die German 
Democratic Republic. 1 The material for the Study Department's 
inquiry on 'The Witness of Christians in Communist Countries' 
was meagre enough but sufficient to reveal that, while religion 
might be purged of impure motivation and dubious associations 
under the experience of a communist regime, its possibilities of 
social action were non-existent. 

The nature and function of the World Council of Churches, 
it need scarcely be remarked, debar it from any possibility of 
anathematizing any ideology or regime. 

The Preparatory Commission's Memorandum on the Res- 
ponsible Society acknowledged that in expressing alarm over the 
ideology or practice of laissez-faire capitalism it would be beating 
a dead horse. 2 Indeed the Memorandum pointed to the need for 
surveillance of trends towards excessive State intervention in the 
economic process with consequent dangers of centralization and 
rigidity. Both these cautions were adopted at Evanston. 
'Capitalism' was accorded a measure of praise: 'At its best the 
business system has provided incentives for the responsible 
initiative and hard work which produce economic progress, and 
has embodied the wisdom of decentralized decisions and widely 
distributed power. These are virtues needed in any system.' 8 

A number of social evils were listed in the Evanston Report 
as making the delegates 'uneasy about the existing situation'. 4 
In which type of society these abuses were found was not 
indicated. Since positive action to remedy these deficiencies and 
to guard against these dangers was demanded and since the 
Preparatory Commission had earlier acknowledged the im- 
possibility of anyone 'exercising effective control over political 

1 EPS, April 29, 1953 . Barth could hardly be considered a victim of sterile anti- 
communist hysteria. He had a little earlier characterized the Paris-Bonn Agreements, 
restoring sovereignty to the West German, Federal Republic and providing for its 
representation in the European Defence Community, as 'the worst political error' since 
the Munich settlement of 1938. On the persecution in East Germany cf. Pasteur E. 
lingerer's two articles in R.tforme, May 9 and 23, 1953. 

2 'Today, therefore, there is little support in countries with a democratic tradition either 
for consistent collectivism or a purely laissez-faire economy.' 'The Responsible Society 
in a World Perspective', ER vr (October 1953), I, p 78. 

8 Evanston, p. 118. 4 Ibid., pp. 118-20. 


authority and economic power' under communist regimes, 1 
it was manifestly the evils and failings of capitalist society which 
were being scrutinized. The tendencies to exploit human 
acquisitiveness, to create unHmited wants, to over-emphasize 
material values and to appeal to motives of social pride, envy, 
lust, through irresponsible salesmanship and advertising, were 
condemned as dangerous and in need of curbing. Conceding 
the place of incentive and the inevitability of a certain inequality 
if regimentation is to be avoided, the Report deplored the great 
contrasts between rich and poor as destructive of fellowship 
and the political institutions of a responsible society. Improved 
welfare legislation for the economically weak members of society 
was urged, together with resistance to any tendency on the part 
of the State to monopolize the social welfare field. Greater 
concern for the common good was looked for from trade unions 
and professional associations. A larger realization of the effect 
of national policies on the lives and welfare of people in other 
countries was desired. 

The change of viewpoint was a result (and a reflection) of 
the rehabilitation of 'the business system' among thoughtful 
observers. 2 The news has broken through the Talmudic dis- 
cussions of various schools of Marxists that, despite the alleged 
Iron Law announced by the Prophet, the real wages of the 

1 Cf. supra, p. 193 n.a. 

a It is impossible to surmise to what extent delegates to World Council Assemblies 
share the prejudices against the business system and the capitalist social order ascribed to 
intellectuals and explained in these terms: 'Is all this not largely due to the fact that under 
capitalism, for the first time, due to the secular and "commercial" spirit that dominates 
it, the intellectual cannot find a place at the very centre of the system commensurate 
with his sense of charismatic importance? ... In recent years, however, as a result of 
historical lessons that even the intellectual cannot escape, a marked change of attitude has 
taken place. Confrontation with Communist totalitarianism has well-nigh destroyed the 
ideological foundations of "progressivism" and has helped reconcile the intellectual -with 
his society and culture, in which he has begun to discover hitherto unsuspected virtues. 
A new climate of opinion has come to prevail, very different from the orthodox "pro- 
gressive" ideology of an earlier generation. The new anti-positivist emphasis on "values" 
in social philosophy, the new appreciation of die self-regulating mechanism of the market 
in economics, and the new appeal of a responsible Burkean conservatism in political think- 
ing are marks of the spirit of our time.' Will Herberg in the New Leader xxxvn (June 28, 
1954), 26, p. 35. Cf. also Raymond Aron, L'Opiutn des Intellectuels (Paris: Calmann-Le'vy, 


worker have steadily, if painfully, risen. This has not happened, 
to be sure, through the altruism of the employers but ni part 
through the increased efficiency demanded by competition and 
in part through the success of 'countervailing powers' whose 
possibility Marx was incapable of foreseeing. For, as Professor 
John K. Galbraith pointed out to the meeting of the American 
Economic Association in 1952, an additional factor controlling 
the concentration of economic power has made its presence felt. 
Along with the force of competition and of State regulation, once 
deemed the only two conceivable shackles on monopoly, a series 
of elements 'countervailing powers' have entered the scene 
to curb the excesses of 'laissez-faire capitalism' labour federa- 
tions and farm bureaux, organizations of large chain and depart- 
ment stores to offset the market power of great manufacturers. 
Political trends and, possibly, the success of the American economy 
in supplying material wants and a rising standard of living for its 
workers undoubtedly influenced Evanston in its 'fresh recognition 
of the importance of relative freedom in enterprise and of the 
regulating role of the price system'. 1 

The published reactions to the preh'minary Memorandum on 
the Responsible Society offer assurance that the Evanston 
Report, which followed it closely, adequately represents the 
viewpoint of the World Council constituency on contemporary 
communism and capitalism. Its judicious balance of criticism 
and its appreciation of the benefits of 'the business system' express 
the average of the opinions held on the subject in the ecumenical 
world. 2 


The World Council of Churches has frequently asserted that 

the Church has a role to play in the right ordering of society, a 

1 Evanston, p. 117. 

a The comments on the Memorandum appear in the June 1954 issue of Church and 
Society, a monthly bulletin published by the World Council's Department of the same 
name. One unidentified Professor of Economics in the United States regretted the 
absence of 'a unifying theme' and was struck by the number of times the Memorandum 
'used the expressions "on the one hand" and "on the other hand", "in some countries", 
"in other countries", etc.'. 


responsibility to fulfil in changing economic life. Both Assemblies 
described some modes of exercising an influence in the political 
and social spheres. Neither Assembly, however, defined in any 
detail the nature of this function; neither was very clear on what 
entity was to make this impact on society; neither indicated, 
in other words, in what sense the word 'Church' was to be 

i. Means of Influence 

Is the Church merely to offer moral judgment on political 
trends and economic practices or has it in addition an action 
programme of its own charitable, health and educational 
institutions, for example, paralleling State institutions but 
remaining independent of them through which it makes its 
specific contribution to society? Is 'the Church' the composite 
of the ecclesiastical organizations found in the World Council 
constituency or is it the totality of individuals belonging to 
churches which are members of the Council? The latter question 
raises the possibility of the civic obligations of the Christian to 
the community and its political agencies apart from the fact of 
his membership in a church. To clarify these points, to illumine 
these questions, it is profitable to consider the discussions at other 
ecumenical encounters whose conclusions were used as founda- 
tions for continuing "World Council study. 1 

(a) Thus the Oxford Conference of the Universal Christian 
Council for Life and Work of 1937 found 'The Basis for a 
Christian Concern for the Economic Order' in the scriptural 
commandment of love of the neighbour, obedience to which in 
the economic sphere implies the pursuit of justice by individual 
Christians and their energetic efforts 'to secure for all who are 
their neighbours such opportunities as are necessary for their 
full development as persons in body, mind and spirit'. 2 This 

1 'The report from Evanston on Social Questions ... is a continuation of the concern 
for social and political questions expressed in the ecumenical movement beginning with 
the Stockholm Conference (1925) and carried forward at Oxford (1937) and at the first 
Assembly of the World Council in Amsterdam (1948).' Evanstott Speaks, p. 42. 

* Oxford, p. 87. 


concern for social justice was derived, from, a duty towards God 
who creates man in His image and proposes to restore that 
dignity through the redemption that is in Christ. 1 

By 'the Church' was understood a sociological phenomenon 
rather than an object of faith, 'organized Christianity rather than 
the Una Sancta', the sum of separate Christians in both their 
individual and corporate capacity. It also meant, in other 
contexts, the aggregate of those ecclesiastical institutions, deno- 
minations or societies, composing the total Church. 2 But the 
social function of the Church, as seen at Oxford, is primarily the 
fulfilment of the commandment to love one's neighbour by the 
milhons of individual Christians who hear the Word of God and 
manifest in their actions their acceptance of its message. A semi- 
official preparatory volume, to be sure, considered possible lines 
of 'action of the Church through its ecclesiastical heads and 
leaders, through its synods, councils and assemblies and other 
ofHcial organs, and through the clergy and ministers, who are its 
office-bearers' . 3 It was from this more restricted grouping, called 
also 'the Church', that the Oxford Report expected guidance 
concerning economic life by way of the proclamation of principles 
and ends, the presentation of facts underlying social problems 
and the explication of the obstacles to social justice constituted 
by sin. 4 

(&) The Amsterdam Report of Section III judged that the social 
influence of the Church would result 'primarily from, its influence 
upon its members through constant teaching and preaching of 
Christian truth in ways that iuuminate the historical conditions 
in which men live and the problems which they face' . 5 Obviously, 
'the Church' was here described as an ecclesiastical organization. 
The effectiveness of its influence was deemed proportioned to the 
prises de conscience of individual Christians confronting their 
responsibilities in the temporal realm. Furthermore, if the 
Church overcomes national and social barriers in its membership, 
the resulting solidarity would help to check, it was stated, the 

1 Oxford, p. 92. * Ibid., pp. 77-8. 

3 J. H. Oldham in The Church and its Function in Society, p. 207. 

4 Oxford, p. 90. B Amsterdam, p. 81. 


disintegration of contemporary society. Especially in the field of 
race-relations must the Church apply itself 'to eliminate these 
practices [of discrimination and segregation] from the Christian 
community, because they contradict all that it believes about 
God's love for all His children'. 1 On occasion, it was felt, the 
Churches must give concrete guidance, warning against specific 
forms of injustice or social idolatry; but Christian political parties, 
it was asserted, are instruments of dubious usefulness whatever 
their temporary justification. Finally, in an idea which shifted 
the meaning to emphasize the membership, the social influence 
of the Church was acknowledged to be conditioned by the 
situation in which Christians find themselves, their proportion 
in the total population and the attitude of the government in 
power. The lot of churches under contrasting conditions, their 
failures, achievements and sufferings, it was noted, have enriched 
ecumenical experience. 

(c) The Evanston Assembly's Section III on 'The Responsible 
Society' reaffirmed the Ecumenical Community's conviction that 
'the Churches . . . have a duty to society as part of their mission 
to the world'. The nature and sources of that duty were left 
unexamined. 2 The role of the Church in economic life, according 
to the Section on Social Questions, involves underscoring the 
moral implications of certain problems, issuing warnings against 
certain, trends and practices and reminding Christians of some 
specific obligations. The Section, furthermore, indicated the 
lines of counsel the Church offers today 'in relation to Com- 
munist-non-Communist tension'. 

It will be apposite, therefore, to review some fields where, 
in the judgment of the World Council, the Church may exercise 
a social role, and some of the problems connected with such 


2 'Clearly, there were in the section many different theological explanations as to the 
way in. which one proceeded from, these theological premises to judgments about specific 
social issues as developed in the body of the report. It was agreed, however, that it was 
not necessary to resolve such theological differences in order to arrive at common judg- 
ments on the specific issues.' Evanston Speaks, pp. 42-3. 


2. Public Pronouncements 

One way in which 'the Church' considered as an ecclesiastical 
organization rather than as a group of citizens composing its 
membership exercises a social function is by expressing its 
judgment on political trends and economic proposals. As the 
formal expression of the Ecumenical Community, the World 
Council of Churches (its members would concede) has a duty to 
society in this regard, and one which it fulfils by issuing state- 
ments. The 'Appeal' addressed to the governments and the 
peoples of the world in the hope of relieving present international 
tensions, adopted in resolution form by the Evanston Assembly, 
would be an example. Concerning the public pronouncements 
of the World Council of Churches as an entity, the Amsterdam 
Assembly, as the constituting authority, approved the following 
declaration as Rule IX of the Constitution: 'In the performance 
of its functions, the Council through its Assembly or through its 
Central Committee may publish statements upon any situation 
or issue with which the Council or its constituent churches may 
be confronted.' Other sections of Rule IX state that such 
declarations do not imply that the Council has or can have 
constitutional authority over its member churches or the right 
to speak for them; furthermore, the Rule indicates under what 
circumstances and by what officers and organs statements may 
be published in the name of the World Council. 

It is more than a little paradoxical that a generation which 
resents the enunciation of Christian principles of morality as an 
unwarranted interference, frequently demands that religious 
groups 'take a stand' on some issue of political import. Having 
been told to confine themselves to their own field, presumably 
the things of the next world, the churches are often pressed to 
favour one side or another on questions that are very much of 
this world. There is a very real and present danger, in demo- 
cratic societies not least, that religion may be gradually adapted 
to fit secular aims, however worthy, that it may be used to serve 
as a social tonic spurring greater popular energy in a national 
cause. This is an example of the perversion of religion and the 


surrender by ecclesiastical officials described, by T. S. Eliot, a 
participant in the Oxford Life and Work Conference, in his 
poetic dramatization of a Church-State conflict in the lines: 

The last temptation is the greatest treason 
To do the right deed for the wrong reason. 1 

The World Council of Churches does not live in an historical 
vacuum. It is subject to constant demand that it shore up the 
prestige of political groups by canonizing their objectives, that 
it pronounce a moral verdict on the manifold issues of the day- 
down to events as seemingly ephemeral as the Rosenberg case. 
It cannot take refuge in the fatuities of empty generalizations, of 
transcendental irrelevances. 

In a paper contributed to the discussions preparatory to the 
Oxford Conference, Professor R. H. Tawney declared that if 
Christianity is normative, if it has a unique judgment to utter on 
contemporary conditions, then the leaders of the churches ought 
'whatever the cost, to state fearlessly and in unmistakable terms 
what precisely they conceive that distinctive contribution to be. 
If they do not, then let them cease reiterating second-hand plati- 
tudes which disgust sincere men and bring Christianity into 
contempt.' 2 The Chairman of Amsterdam's Section III, Dr. C. L. 
Patijn, complained that Oxford's 'goals which represent the 
purpose of God for our time' were not specific enough and 
insisted that such abstractions do not come to grips with the 
applications of such norms to the problems of institutional life 
and structural reform. 3 The Secretary's Minutes of the Evanston 
Section on the Responsible Society contain similar demands for 
specification, for concrete instances of colonialism and the 
precise location of forced labour camps. 

The eagerness for official moral guidance is understandable 
enough but it frequently does not take into account realistically 
the difficulties involved and the perplexity of the World Council's 
position. Some of these difficulties arise from its very nature: it 

1 From Murder in the Cathedral Cf. also his The Idea of a Christian Society, p. 59 and the 
note on p. 85. 
8 Quoted in Oldham, of. cit., p. 214. a CDS, p. 160. 


can only voice a consensus of the opinion of its constituency. 
Some arise from its task: to maintain and enlarge the Ecumenical 
Community. Some arise from the intellectual climate of the day 
with its one-dimensional ceiling, blocking from view the 
Christian perspective and dulling the memory of Christian 
premises. Is even the grammar of the Christian discourse in 
general currency? The General Secretary was obviously adverting 
to this phase of the problem when he remarked at a gathering of 
the Commissions preparing for the Amsterdam programme: 
'We must say something clear and definite also about the present 
world situation. How can that be done in such a way that it will 
be understood by a generation which has lost the ability to under- 
stand any Christian language? We must at least try.' 1 Nor do 
the World Council officials overestimate either the efficacy of 
public pronouncements or the actual influences of the churches 
today. 2 

Not the least of the difficulties involved in making public 
pronouncements on economic and political questions arises from 
the very complexity of the technical factors and historical facts 
upon which any responsible judgment must be based and from 
the limitations of the resources available to the World Council's 
Study Department and the Commission of the Churches on 
International Affairs. An adequate analysis of the technical 
factors and an efficient assembling of all the facts of contemporary 
social problems would demand funds not currently at hand for 
the Study Department. Moreover, the World Council is, by 
definition, to stimulate rather than to centralize ecumenical 
thinking; it may not impose answers. 3 

1 At Bossey Conference, June 23, 1947. Archives* 

2 Thus, Dr. Visser 't Hooft: 'It [the Church] has long ceased to be the dominant factor 
of European life. It represents in many countries a small minority surrounded by pagan- 
ized masses.' The Kingship of Christ, p. 8. And Stewart Winfield Herman who helped to 
initiate the "World Council's relief and reconstruction programme: 'Despite the various 
degrees of influence prevailing in different countries, at no point can it be said that Christian 
conviction divorced from political pretension is giving decisive direction to the trends in Europe. 
This is the most serious jthing that can be said about Europe today. But not about Europe 
only!' Report from Christian Europe, p. 198. Italics in the original, 

3 Thus Reinhold Niebuhr: 'The lack of a clear spiritual witness to the truth in Christ is 
aggravated by certain modern developments, among them the increasing complexity of 


Basic and still unresolved, however, is tke question of the 
World Council's social philosophy, its moral perspective (if the 
word 'philosophy' is deemed controversial), its criterion for 
appraising economic and political questions. Is an 'ethic of 
inspiration' to be favoured over an 'ethic of ends' ? Such an option 
supposes norms not subject to rational scrutiny and produces 
conclusions that cannot be tested by human experience. Pro- 
phetic utterance raises the whole question of the credentials of 
the prophet 1 whereas the only authority assigned by the 
Constitution of the World Council to its public pronouncements 
is their intrinsic 'truth and wisdom'. 2 

3. Programmes for Action 

As a fellowship of separate churches, organized to fulfil 
specified tasks assigned to it by its membership, the World 
Council of Churches has, obviously, no action programme of 

moral problems and the increasing dominance of the group or collective over the life of 
the individual. The complexity of ethical problems makes an evangelical impulse to seek 
the good of the neighbour subordinate to the complicated questions about which of our 
neighbours has first claim upon us or what technical means are best suited to fulfil their 
need. The "Enlightenment" was wrong in expecting virtue to flow inevitably from 
rational enlightenment. But that does not change the fact that religiously inspired good- 
will, without intelligent analysis of the factors in a moral situation and of the proper 
means to gain desirable ends, is unavailing.' Christian Century LXX (July 22, 1953), p. 841. 

1 The conflicting views on rearmament expressed in German theological circles today 
do not appreciably clarify the basis of an 'ethic of inspiration*. 

8 Rule DC, 2. The difficulty of consensus is apparent from a consideration of a concrete 
political problem of historic concern to Christians. The Secretary of the International 
Mission Council 'in association with the World Council of Churches', Dr. Gloria Wymer, 
noted the 'deep and tragic' division within the Christian Church on the Palestine Question. 
Christians in the USA, she explained, on the whole support Israel while missionaries in 
the Near East support the Arabs. This rift 'frustrated it [the Church or the IMC?] in 
making any kind of commitment'. EPS, November 19, 1949. On December 10, 1949, 
tine UN voted to organize Palestine in two states with Jerusalem and its environs an 
internationally administered enclave. The Commission of the Churches on International 
Affairs had addressed a letter to the members of the UN Political Committee calling for 
guarantees of human rights in the area and endorsing the principle of international 
responsibility but without indicating how it was to be exercised. When the Trusteeship 
Council was considering the mode of actualizing the settlement voted by the UN Assembly, 
Dr. Nolde, as Director of the CCIA, submitted a memorandum indicating the absence 
of agreement among the church groups involved on the political arrangements preferred 
for file Holy I/and, though the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a separate memorandum, 
urged the internationalization of the Old City of Jerusalem. Cf. ibid., December 5, 1949, 
and February 17, 1950, 


its own, no mandate to express or implement its independent 
views on the social function of the Church. Its service to refugees, 
its relief and reconstruction programme constitute, to be sure, 
an exercise of charity with tangible social consequences one 
need only think of the migration aspect of the work but even 
here the World Council is an agent for the co-operative effort 
of its member churches. It is principally through the Study 
Department, through the discussions it inaugurates, through the 
encounters it arranges, through the thinking it stimulates, that 
the social influence of the World Council as an entity is exercised. 
With the Study Department can be equated, as having the same 
function, the Ecumenical Institute and its Graduate School of 
Ecumenical Studies. More direct is the influence on existing 
international institutions assigned to the Commission of the 
Churches on International Afiairs, jointly sponsored by the 
World Council and the International Missionary Council, which 
represents the interests of the ecumenical constituency at the 
United Nations, studies trends as well as makes concrete pro- 
posals, and alerts its affiliated national committees as to the 
possibility of action in their several countries on issues of religious 

In preparation for the Amsterdam Assembly the Section III 
Study Commission conducted a survey of 'New Beginnings in 
the Relations of the Church with Society' to uncover evidence of 
the social influence of the churches. The summary appearing in 
the background volume noted efforts to allay enmity and 
ameliorate suffering connected with the war, citing the comfort 
and practical aid rendered by Protestant churches to the German 
minority expelled from Czechoslovakia, the Volksdeutsche driven 
from Eastern Europe, the displaced persons of all races; the 
proclamations of penitence for national sin by different churches 
seeking reconciliation with former enemy countries; the activity 
of Cimade 1 in sending teams of French Protestant young people 
to share the experience of prisoners of war, the refugees and the 

1 Another Section of the Amsterdam Assembly considered Cimade a specifically evan- 
gelizing effort, listing it among the instruments for spreading the Gospel. Cf. The Church's 
Witness to God's Design, pp. i52ff. 


inhabitants of bombed-out cities. Attention was called to pro- 
grammes coping with the disintegration of the family such as 
the Christian Home Life Movement in China and India and the 
Home and Family Movement in Great Britain, said to have been 
the inspiration for the Central Marriage Guidance Council. The 
summary pointed to centres of study, such as Sigtuna in Sweden, 
Kerk en Wereld in Holland, Bossey in Switzerland and the 
Evangelical Academies at Bad Boll, Hofgeismar, Loccum and 
Tutzing in Germany, 1 where groups from the different pro- 
fessions and employments doctors, politicians, social workers, 
journalists, representatives of labour and management gather 
to discuss realistically how a Christian is to live out the implica- 
tions of his faith in his vocational life. A similar purpose motivates 
the Christian Frontier Council in England, the Associations 
ProfessionellesProtestantes in France and the Layman's Movement 
in the United States. The collaboration of religious groups 
in the effort to transform the Dumbarton Oaks draft into a 
United Nations Charter that recognized the role of the smaller 
States, die existence of an order of justice and human rights, was 

In the field of the reform of economic institutions, however, 
the summary acknowledged the absence of concrete achievement, 
remarking: 'The Church has not made up its mind finally what 
are the Christian incentives for industry in a world of economic 
change, nor on the claims of a collective society (distinct from 
anti-religious systems with which it is too often associated) as 
over against an individualist society, nor what ought to be the 
political alignments in which a Christian man will most effectively 
discharge his social and political responsibility.' 2 

The survey of recent ecumenical thought and activity in social 

1 One notes the absence of any mention of the Moral Rearmament Movement which 
proposes to transform society by changing individuals and wonders if MRAis considered 
not a specifically Christian Movement. Yet the preparatory volume on evangelism believed 
that Moral Rearmament 'rendered signal services to the Christian cause in the depressed 
period between the wars'. Ibid., p. 139. Possibly MRA was not Judged sufficiently 
formally related to any given church, but the same could be said for other movements 
noted, nor has the Salvation Army, which belongs to the "World Council, a particularly 
pronounced ecclesiastical definition. a CDS, p. 119. 


matters prepared for the JEvanston Assembly delegates, reported 
a general acceptance of the idea of Christian responsibility for 
society. The present need, the replies to the questionnaires sent 
out by the Study Department revealed, is to think through clear 
Christian positions supporting a new set of specific objectives, a 
task made difficult by the very complexity of modern society 
and the lack of systematic contact between theologians and those 
immersed in political and economic life. A Swedish correspondent 
suggested an impediment to effective social action: 'The funda- 
mental problem with all treatment of Christian social ethics 
seems to be to build a bridge that connects ideas formed on 
principles with a realistic programme of action.' 1 

With clearly no intention to offer more than an example of 
pressing problems the Evanston Report, in discussing 'The Role 
of the Church' in the Responsible Society, listed among its duties 
the promotion of 'adequate assistance on the national and inter- 
national level for children, the sick, the old, refugees and other 
economically weak groups by means of church organizations, 
voluntary societies and local and national governments'. No 
effort was made to distinguish the relative spheres of voluntary 
as distinguished from government action in the social welfare 
field. An obligation on Christians, presumably as private citizens, 
to foster improved legislation for welfare and medical care while 
resisting tendencies of State monopoly, was asserted. The prob- 
lems of making real the hopes of a Responsible Society in a 
World Perspective are recognized as prodigious. 

4. Political Parties 

One of the items in the 'Appeal' voted at Evanston directed 
'the Churches to bid their members recognize their political 
responsibilities'. The Resolution went on to recommend that 
the churches 'ask Christian technicians and administrators to 
find a vocation in the service of United Nations Agencies engaged 
in meeting the needs of economically and technically under- 
developed countries'. Such careers, it was noted, would bring a 
1 CHTC, p. 30. 


Christian temper of love and understanding to the programmes 
of mutual assistance. Given the nature of the United Nations 
and the posts indicated as deserving the dedicated service of 
Christians, a manifestly non-political activity was envisaged. 
However, in the national community, at least in democratic 
societies, programmes of assistance for the sick, for refugees and 
other economically weak groups, as well as legislation for 
improved social welfare and adequate medical care (to use 
examples drawn from the Evanston Section III Report) are 
inevitably matters of political action engaging the efforts of 
political parties. 

How are the members of the churches to acquit themselves 
of these political responsibilities once recognized? And, to be 
more concrete, what should be their attitude towards political 
parties? The subject was not discussed at Evanston although it 
had been raised at a plenary session during the First Assembly 
where it was considered to constitute a problem. 

The problem was occasioned specifically by the fact of political 
parties claiming to find their orientation and inspiration in 
Christian social principles, a supposition which had been rejected 
by the Reformed theologian, Karl Barth, and the Lutheran 
professor, L. Aalan. 1 The topic evoked small interest among 
those preparing the background volume for the guidance of the 
delegates to the Amsterdam Assembly. A conference of the 
Section III Study Commission, meeting just before the Assembly, 
concluded that, since all politics were morally rather dubious, 
such political groupings were undesirable. The Minutes of the 
Section discussion on the first draft of the Report reveal a 
negative judgment on 'Christian' political parties, delegates 
from Anglo-Saxon countries preferring the strategy of penetrating 
existing parties, others pointing out that semi-confessional 
political groupings invite the opposition of all other political 

l ln Christcngemeinde unt Burgergemeinde and Verkundigungstheokratie respectively. 
Barth holds that sufficient political guidance is given the citizen through the preaching, 
petitions, publications and synodal resolutions of the Church. He recognizes, moreover, 
that the basis of such parties is the acceptance of the Natural Law which he rejects. For 
the Lutheran, Aalan, politics are 'worldly wisdom', the realm of this world. 


parties to Christianity itself. 1 Seemingly the Drafting Committee 
decided to drop the topic. 

During the discussion of the Report at a plenary session of the 
Assembly, the Chairman of Section III interrupted the debate 
to speak of an omitted paragraph concerning political parties 
and to ask for a public vote on its inclusion. As a result the 
Assembly agreed to accept a statement: (a) asserting that 'The 
Church as such should not be identified with any political party'; 
(b) warning that such groupings 'easily confuse Christianity with 
the inherent compromises of polities', deprive other parties of the 
leaven of Christian influence and may consolidate partisans of 
other groups against Christianity itself; but (c) conceding the 
possible usefulness in some situations for Christians to organize 
themselves into a political party for specific objectives, 'so long 
as they do not claim that it is the only possible expression of 
Christian loyally in the situation'. 2 

"What concrete situation was the paragraph concerned with, 
since it cannot be supposed that the delegates were indulging in 
an exercise of pure political theory? The Evangelical Church in 
Germany (HOD) had expressed its pleasure two years earlier 
at the formation of a non-confessional party of Christian inspira- 
tion, a description which applied only to the Christian Democratic 
Union. 3 The Chairman of the Section told the present writer 
that the MRP group in France is not a confessional party in the 
sense discussed in the paragraph. There is no tradition of con- 
fessional parties in English-speaking lands and, probably because 
of the absence of religio-cultural conflicts, no thought of organiz- 
ing such groups. The American and British delegates, therefore, 
can scarcely be supposed to have had much interest in the question. 

1 In a lone effort to be concrete an Italian pastor in the Section meeting claimed that the 
Christian Democrats in his country had not always given a great impression of integrity, 
with the result that most of his Evangelical members were Socialists or Communists. 

2 Amsterdam, p. 81. 

8 Cf. EPS, December 1945 (No. 46), p. 4. Later, difficulties arose with Chancellor 
Adenauer and Pastor Niemdller clashing bitterly over the rearmament question. Meetings 
were held between EKiD church leaders and CDU party leaders as well as with leaders 
of the Socialist Party. The Evangelical Church explained that every Christian should 
interest himself in political decisions but must decide for himself for which candidate 
to vote. Cf. EPS, April 7, 1950, p. 100. 


Some Germans had viewed the establishment of the Federal 
Republic as an impediment to achieving national unity and a few 
irresponsibles had even suggested that the Christian Democratic 
Party was content to leave the preponderantly Protestant East 
Zone in Soviet hands. The partisan accusations of a 'Washington- 
Vatican-Bonn Axis', however, began to be heard considerably 
later and cannot be presumed to have had currency in the circles 
from which the delegates to the Amsterdam Assembly came. 

By default, then, it would seem to be the situation in Holland 
that was principally envisaged. There a group of ministers and 
elders headed by Dr. Abraham Kuyper, on being expelled from, 
the national Hervormde Kerk, had founded in 1885 the funda- 
mentalist Gcreformeerde Kerk and organized the conservative 
Anti-Revolutionary Party. 1 'After the war,' to quote the 
Amsterdam preparatory volume, c a number of prominent church 
members [including the Chairman of Section III] took action 
which resulted in the formation of a new Labour Party, to 
replace the old Social Democratic Party. Christians were 
included in the leadership of the new party, the previous Marxist 
outlook abandoned, and a positive attitude towards the Church 
and Christianity taken up.' 2 Was the World Council of Churches 
invited, in effect, to disapprove of Holland's Anti-Revolutionary 
Party by the inclusion of a paragraph in the Amsterdam Report? 
If so, the effort seems overzealous. 

To examine the major issues scheduled for discussion at 
Evanston, especially in their relation to the situation in East Asia, 
an ecumenical conference was sponsored by the World Council's 
Study Department at Lucknow, India, during the last days of 
December 1952. With a number of members of the Council's 
Central Committee participating, the Study Conference, when 
considering the relevance of the idea of the Responsible Society, 
agreed that political action is a necessary means of promoting 
social justice. The fact, coupled with the obligation to change 
the structure of society, involves a duty: Christians *must do 

1 Cf. Keller, Church and State on the European Continent, pp. 203 &, 

2 CDS, p. 112, 


everything possible to construct worthy instruments for res- 
ponsible political action in order to realize the goal of the 
Responsible Society. This will mean in some cases the creation 
of healthy secular political movements.' The Lucknow Con- 
ference was more adamant, at least in language, than Amsterdam 
had been: 'under no circumstances,' it asserted, 'should Christians 
organize themselves into religious political parties'. 1 What a 
'religious political party' particularly in the Asian context would 
be, is not clear. Conceivably, it would be the direct and unique 
expression in the political realm of some Christian ecclesiastical 
organization, thus paralleling the 'sects', say, in Vietnam. The 
danger is immediately obvious: such a tactic seems to submit the 
fate of the Kingdom of God to the electoral process. 

The attitude of the World Council towards Europe's Christian 
Democratic Parties, then, seems to be one of reserve. 2 Liberty 
of choice of political allegiance, including the Communist Party, 
is upheld. Identification of the Church with the relativities of 
political action and the fate of political parties is feared. Each 
Christian is expected in the light of whatever norms of political 
wisdom he prefers, guided by either an 'ethic of inspiration' or 
an 'ethic of ends', to participate in the political life of the com- 
munity and fulfil in his person the social function of the Church. 

5. Church and State 

Another area in which the Church, conceived as a concrete 
organization with religious purposes, exercises a social function 
is in its relations with the State, conceived as the political organ 
of the national community. Although the Evanston Assembly 
offered some observations on the Structure and Function of the 
State, the World Council of Churches has never systematically 
studied the problem of the relations of Church and State. Indeed 
an examination of the listing under that title in Ecumenical 
Documents on Church and Society, a symposium prepared by the 

1 Christ the Hope of Asia, pp. 31-2. 

2 Yet Dr. H. Ehlers, a member of the Christian Democratic Union and President of the 
German Bundestag at the time of his death, was an active member of the Committee 
on the Christian Responsibility for European Co-operation. 


Council's Study Department in preparation for the Evaiiston 
Assembly's discussions on the Responsible Society, reveals 
references only to conferences held before the World Council 
came formally into existence. 

The Oxford Conference of 1937, meeting in the hour of the 
religious persecution in Germany, assigned to a separate Section, 
chaired by Professor Max Huber, the task of scrutinizing the 
relations of the two communities, one religious, the other secular. 
The Report was prefaced by a disclaimer: 'It is not the purpose 
of the following memorandum to set forth an abstract doctrine 
of the relation of Church and State either in sociological, legal 
or theological form.' 1 'In any discussion of the relation of Church 
and State,' it was observed, 'the historical situation must always 
be considered.' It was the problems arising from the growing 
secularization of contemporary society and the growing power 
of the State, that the Oxford delegates chose to study. 

Noting the distinctive functions of these two organizational 
entities 2 the Report listed the consequent obligations of the 
Church to the State, including prayer, conditioned obedience 
and fearless criticism. 3 The requirements of the freedom neces- 
sary as an essential condition for the Church to fulfil its primary 
purpose were specified; 4 it was indicated that these freedoms 

1 Oxford, p. 77. 

2 'The Church [is] the trustee of God's redeeming Gospel and the State [is] the guarantor 
of order, justice and civil liberty.' Ibid., p. 81. 

8 The duties for the churches and their members were listed as: '(/) That of praying for 
the State, its people and its government, () That of loyalty and obedience to the State, 
disobedience becoming a duty only if obedience would be clearly contrary to the com- 
mand of God; (Hi) That of co-operation with the State in promoting the welfare of the 
citizens, and of lending moral support to the State when it upholds the standards of 
justice set forth in the Word of God; (iv) That of criticism of the State when it departs 
from those standards; (v) That of holding before men in all their legislation and administra- 
tion those principles which make for the upholding of the dignity of man who is made 
in the image of God; (vi) That of permeating the public life with the spirit of Christ 
and of training up men and women who as Christians can contribute to this end.' It was 
added further that: 'In the interpretation of these duties it is important to keep constantly 
in mind that as the Church in its own sphere is a universal society, so to Christian faith 
the individual State is not itself the ultimate pohtical unit, but a member of a family of 
nations with international relations and duties which it is the responsibility not only of the 
individual Christians but also of the Churches to affirm and to promote.' Ibid., pp. 82-4. 

* '() Freedom to determine its faith and creed; (6) Freedom of public and private 
worship, preaching and teaching; (c) Freedom from any imposition by the State of 


could be present whether the churches are organized as free 
associations under the general laws of a country or whether, as 
Established Churches, they enjoy a special connexion with the 
State; should such an organic connexion impair the Church's 
freedom, 1 it was added, it would be the duty of ministers and 
members to secure that freedom even at the cost of disestablish- 
ment. The present tasks of the churches were indicated as 
repentance, co-operation, concern for religious freedom every- 
where, sympathy for the oppressed and the renunciation of all 
forms of persecution. 2 

The duties of the State towards the Church were npt specified 
beyond the recognition and protection of religious freedom. 
The Section on 'Church, Community and State in Relation to 
Education', however, called for co-operative action on the part 

religious ceremonies and forms of worship; (<J) Freedom to determine the nature of its 
government and the qualification of its ministers and members, and, conveisely, the 
freedom of the individual to join the Church to which he feels called, (e) Freedom to 
control the education of its ministers, to give religious instruction to its youth, and to 
provide for adequate development of their religious life; (/) Freedom of Christian service 
and missionary activity, both home and foreign; (g) Freedom to co-operate with other 
Churches; (h) Freedom to use such facilities, open to all citizens or associations, as will 
make possible the accomplishment of these ends, as, e.g., the ownership of property and 
the collection of funds.' Oxford, pp. 84-5. 

1 The capitalization of 'Church* in the Oxford context would suggest that several 
churches (composing and corporately manifesting 'the Church") is meant, so that if the 
freedom of a minority church was seriously impaired, the established church should 
stave for general religious freedom even if it meant dissolving its organic connexion 
with the State. 

2 'It is their duty: (a) To summon their own members to repentance, both as individuals 
and organized bodies, for their sins of omission and of commission and to pray for the 
spirit of consecration which shall make of them, both in their separate and in their united 
activities, agents which God may use for His purpose in the world; (6) To create within 
the local community, the nation, and the world such agencies of co-operative action as 
shall make it possible for them to discharge effectively such tasks as can be done in 
common; (c) To summon their individual members in their several callings, not only 
their clerical but also their lay members, men and women, to co-operate with the State 
in such constructive tasks as may be for the good of the whole; (d) To guard for all 
Churches, both as groups of witnessing Christians and in their organized capacity, the 
opportunity of worship, of witness, of service, and of education which is essential to their 
mission, and this not for their own sake only, but for the sake of the State; (e) To follow 
with sympathetic interest the fortunes of those, Christians and non-Christians, who are 
victims of cruelty and oppression, and to do what they can to secure for them a treatment 
compatible with the dignity of their human personality as children of God; (/) To 
renounce publicly and for ever the use of all forms of persecution, whether by Christians 
against other Christians, or by Christians against adherents of other religions.' Ibid,, 
pp. 85-6. 


of the government to make possible religious education for the 
nation's children. 1 

Advisedly, the Oxford Conference of 1937 abstained from any 
theological pronouncement on the knotty problem of the 
relations of Church and State. In a book published the previous 
year the Secretary of the Universal Christian Council on Life and 
"Work, Professor Adolf Keller, had noted that the question was 
under serious study in the Ecumenical Community. 2 Positions 
have not changed substantially since that date: the World 
Council includes among its members established churches and 
free churches, each convinced of the value of the legal arrange- 
ment under which it lives. In general, the mind of the World 
Council would seem, to favour the separation of Church and 
State 3 in the interest of greater religious liberty and more effective 
action towards constructing the Responsible Society. 4 

1 'If the majority of the population are in. general sympathy with Christian standards 
and values, Church and State should find no difficulty in working together to assure a 
religious education to those who desire it. Obviously, freedom of conscience must be 
respected and no coercion exerted on. those who do not wish religious training for 
themselves or their children. But the Christian or other religious elements in the popula- 
tion should not be deprived of their right to receive a completely religious education. 
Freedom of conscience in education has been too negatively conceived. There is both a 
liberty not to have religious training forced where it is objected to, and a liberty to 
have it provided where consciences feel it essential for the education of citizens of the 
State and of the Kingdom of God.' Ibid,, pp. 158-9. At Evanston the role of religion in 
public education was discussed in plenary session and it was voted, on the demand of 
the American delegates, to omit all references to the question whether God has significance 
for the educational process or not (as Dr. Van Dusen phrased the issue) and to refer the 
problem to the Central Committee. Cf. Evanston, pp. 109-12. 

a 'The Ecumenical Movement is seriously seeking an answer to such questions. It is 
confronted with the tragic fact that the Reformation did not succeed in creating a spiritual 
unity among the Churches through a common re-discovery of the Gospel. Not only the 
conceptions of State and Church but even the interpretations of fundamental elements in 
the Gospel are different.' Church and State on the European Continent, p. 365. 

8 The term can have several meanings. It can mean (a) equal status for the Church 
with private societies; or (6) a position which allows the Church to order her own 
affairs according to common law; or (c) a situation in which the organization of the 
Church depends solely on the free will of its adherents; or (<?) the reduction of the 
relations of the Church to a minimum. Or, as Professor Keller notes when describing 
the French legislation of 1905, it can mean 'the liberty to drown in unforeseen financial 
and other difficulties', Op. cit., p. 259. 

4 Thus, M. M. Thomas told a plenary session of the Evanston Assembly: 'The ideal of 
a secular State is basic to the ideal of a Responsible Society', quoted in Cecil Northcott's 
Evanston World Assembly, p. 39. 


6. Race Relations 

Possibly no problem is more pressing in the turbulent world 
of today than the manifold issues subsumed under the colourless 
caption 'race relations'. The upheavals in Asia, the unrest in 
Africa, the angry assertions of nationalism in all the former 
colonial areas of the world are rebellions against the nineteenth- 
century assumption of white supremacy and are resentful re- 
jections of the political policies and social practices founded on 
that assumption. Sober scientific investigations by anthropo- 
logists and psychologists have exposed the myths invoked to 
justify fictitious essential human differences; their conclusions 
have been supported by the high authority of the United Nations' 
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The prestige of 
the Soviet Union in Asia and Africa is a result in no small degree 
of its constant claim of having achieved racial equality, of its 
boast of having outlawed in its Constitution racial discrimination. 

On no question is the Christian conscience of the World 
Council's constituency more uneasy nor the evidence of the 
involvement of the churches in secular standards and practices 
more embarrassing. 1 It is not merely that distinctions based on 
race and colour retard the spread of the Christian Missions by 
reducing a universal religion to a provincial creed, nor that prac- 
tices of racial segregation tolerated by Western church groups 
impair the desired harmonious fellowship with the 'yovrngei:' 
churches of Asia and Africa; it is recognized that such distinctions 
are a denial of the Gospel proclamation, that God made all men 
of one blood to dwell upon the face of the earth and that the 
universal salvation wrought by the Cross has destroyed the 
man-made barriers between bond and free, Jew and Gentile, 

1 The Amsterdam preparatory volume noted that in the United States: 'Ninety per 
cent of the Negroes who belong to Protestant churches are to be found in purely Negro 
denominations. Most of the other ten per cent are to be found in local churches that are 
limited to their own race." John C. Bennett in CDS, p. 100. The Evanston Inter-group 
Relations Commission put the figure of American Negro Christians customarily worship- 
ping with white Christians at less than one-half of one per cent. Dr. Benjamin E. Mays 
told a plenary session: 'Local churches permit secular bodies such as the State and Federal 
courts, the United Nations, big-league baseball ... colleges . . . and theatres to initiate change 
in the area of race ... but local churches, Negro and white, follow slowly or not at all.' 


black and white. The religious preaching of the churches is in 
danger of being outdistanced by the moral pretensions of the 
ideology of modern democracy, a secularized survival (in the 
Darwinian sense) of die Christian message. 

Meeting in the day of the Nazi doctrine of the Aryan super-race 
and its untrammelled right, in virtue of its racial superiority, to 
dominate and even eliminate inferior peoples, the Oxford 
Life and Work Conference found racial differences fruitful and 
racial discrimination unwarranted. 1 The Amsterdam Assembly, 
as has been noted, listed as an exercise of the social function of 
the Church the 'call [ing of] society away from prejudice based 
upon race or colour and from the practices of discrimination 
and segregation as denials of justice and human dignity', adding 
that, if the Church's counsel is to be effective, it must 'take steps 
to eliminate these practices from the Christian community'. 
The suggestion made at a meeting of Section III to condemn 
segregation in principle and to deplore explicitly the toleration 
of the system in South African and American churches was not 
incorporated in the Report. The Minutes of the Section, however, 
show no consciousness of a distinction between the principle and 
the practice of segregation nor any disposition to defend such a 
dubious distinction. The Report of the visit of the World 
Council's General Secretary to South Africa, presented to die 
Lucknow Meeting of the Central Committee, revealed the 
tremendous complexity of the problem on that continent and the 
conflicting policies of the different church groups. Dr. Visser 
't Hooft's Report occasioned a resolution condemning racial 
discrimination anew. 2 

1 'The existence of black races, white races, yellow races is to be accepted gladly and 
reverently as full of possibilities under God's purpose for the enrichment of human life. 
And there is no room for any differentiation between the races as to their intrinsic 

value. The sin of man asserts itself in racial pride, racial hatreds and persecutions, and 

in the exploitation of other races. Against this in all its forms the Church is called by God 
to set its face implacably and to utter its word unequivocally, both within and without 
its own borders.' Oxford, p. 72. 

* Lucknow Minutes (1953), p. 20. The resolution incorporates a quotation from the 
Amsterdam. Report calhng on the churches to eliminate practices of racial discrimination. 
One member abstained from, the vote because of the omission of the phrase 'promptly 
brought to an end' which does not appear in the Amsterdam documents. 


The Evanston Assembly broadened consideration of the topic 
to 'Inter-group Relations' and assigned the discussions to a 
separate Section. A preparatory brochure, issued by the World 
Council's Study Department introducing the topic, notes a 
difference of theological opinion. Some churches of the World 
Council constituency, it was reported, hold that the fellowship 
in Christ is 'a spiritual one, to be fully realized only in the final 
end of things in the future when Christ shall bring in His 
Kingdom [until which time] the divisions which God has 
created among men must continue even in the Church' . x Another 
view holds that 'the full unity of the Body of Christ presses 
constantly upon our imperfect churches, demanding that we enter 
into full unity at every opportunity ... to manifest in the 
churches a unity in which race and nation do not have separating 

The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches 
defined the task of the Inter-group Relations Section of the 
Evanston Assembly as an analysis and solution of the following 
questions: (a) How can the message of the Gospel be presented 
so as to affect the deep springs of race prejudice? (b) How should 
the Christian Church deal with it within its own membership? 
What import should the churches attach to questions affecting 
racial and ethnic homogeneity within the churches? How can 
the Church in the congregation, in the nation, and in the 
world so exemplify Christian conviction concerning race as to 
contribute towards the alleviation of injustice? (c) How may the 

1 Inter-group Relations (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1952), p. 7. An Indian 
contributor to the Amsterdam preparatory volume mentioned 'two illustrations from 
the Protestant world devastating in their effects on die Asiatic nations and coloured races. 
There are many Dutch Christians in South Africa who find in the doctrines of calling 
and creation a justification for their policy of racial segregation; and Christian political 
parties in Holland take their stand on the doctrine of calling in defending the continuance 
of imperialism in Indonesia.' M. M. Thomas in CDS, p. 75. On the other hand there 
was the significant stand summarized by this 1946 statement: 'The Federal Council of 
the Churches of Christ in America hereby renounces the pattern of segregation in race 
relations as unnecessary and undesirable and a violation of the Gospel of love and human 
brotherhood. Having taken this action, the Federal Council requests its constituent 
communions to do likewise. As proof of their sincerity in this renunciation they will 
work for a non-segregated church and a non-segregated society.' Cited by John C Bennett 
ibid., p. 100. 


Christian community utilize and co-operate with government 
and other secular agencies in the alleviation of injustice? 

The Evanston Section on Inter-group Relations was divided 
on the biblical and theological significance of racial differences 
but was firmly agreed that racial segregation is a sin and owes its 
origin to sin. Reconciliation, the Section averred, lies not in 
'the economic and political reordering of society' but 'in the 
power of the Spirit' which overcomes racial pride and fear. 
Since all practices which maintain the physical separation of the 
races are a denial of the spiritual unity and brotherhood of man, 
the Church was summoned to put aside all excuses seeking to 
justify exclusion on the grounds of cultural differences or cultural 
mores. The Church was directed to educate its members on 
their responsibilities, support those who are challenging the 
conscience of society and withhold its approval of all discrimina- 
tory legislation affecting the educational, occupational, civic or 
marital opportunities based on race. Action to ameliorate racial 
tensions and injustice was recommended to every congregation, and 
co-operation where possible with agencies, international, govern- 
mental, private or civic working in the field, was suggested. 1 

The analysis and judgment of the Section was reinforced by 
Resolutions adopted by the entire Assembly, thus giving them 
greater authority. The World Council of Churches is thus on 
record as declaring that 'any form of segregation based on race, 
colour or ethnic origin is contrary to the gospel, and is incompat- 
ible with the Christian doctrine of man and with the nature of the 
Church of Christ'. 2 Moreover, the Council urged its member 
churches to work, despite manifest difficulties, for the ultimate 
abolition of all discriminatory practices both within their own 
life and within the societies in which they find themselves. 3 

1 The Survey on Inter-group Relations, included in CHTC, listed some specific activities 
available to die churches themselves and calculated to reduce racial tensions. 

a Evanston, p. 158. 

8 The fact that the Assembly had just voted to admit to membership in the World 
Council two segregated churches, the Dutch Reformed Church in Cape Province, 
South Africa, and the Bantu Presbyterian Church of South Africa, weakens in no sense 
its strictures on segregation but rather demonstrates the determination of the Council to 
leave questions of faith and ecclesiastical order to the decisions of its member churches. 


A spokesman for the delegates from the South African churches, 
C. B. Brink, rose in the plenary meeting where the Report of 
Section V on Inter-group Relations was being voted to announce 
that, while the condemnation of segregation might make trouble 
for them at home, nevertheless they proposed to 'pledge our- 
selves personally to the task of urging our respective churches to 
apply themselves as urgently as possible to the study of the 
Report and to communicate their findings to the Central 
Committee as soon as possible'. 

7. Christian Witness in Communist or Non-Communist Society 

It was a member of the Drafting Committee of the Evanston 
Section on the Responsible Society, Canon H. G. G. Herklots, 
who provided a valuable explanation of the status quaestionis, the 
point of view, of the nine paragraphs in that Report sub-titled 
'The Church in Relation to Communist-non-Communist 
Tension'. He explained: "What was considered was not the 
Church and Communism, nor Christianity and Communism, 
but the task of the Church in relation to the tension between the 
two great systems which dominate the world.' 1 It was not, then, 
a judgment of the communist creed in the light of the Christian 
faith (on which there is a difference of opinion in the 
Ecumenical Connnunity) that was sought. Rather, the discussion 
turned on the most effective strategy, the proper spiritual 
posture for Christians, pledged to the idea of the Responsible 
Society, living in either type of society. It was decided that 
the problem must be resolved by each Christian for himself 
in the perspective and with the aid of some questions raised by 

The issue, as Evanston acknowledged, has endemic political 
and economic consequences. Moreover, 'it creates divisions within 
the Church regarding the right attitude towards communism*. 
Some see in communism the way to a new order of material 
abundance and greater justice; others tend to rely on military 
measures, neglecting necessary social reform and forgetting the 

1 Looking at Evanston, p. 96. 


menace to civil liberties. These are the errors, the Evanston 
delegates warned, which are connected with the reaction to the 
communist challenge. The task of the Church, the Report 
believed, was to point to the dangers inherent in the present 
situation. 1 

In its enumeration of the separate points of conflict between, 
on the one hand, 'the atheistic, Marxian communism of our day' 
and, on the other, 'capitalism', the Report of Amsterdam's 
Section III had inserted a paragraph calling for resistance to the 
spread of political systems of oppression. 2 Such systems were not 
further identified. It is not clear, therefore, whether a military 
dictatorship such as Spain, or a communist regime such as 
Rumania, was primarily under indictment nor whether by 'the 
Church' to which is assigned an obligation of resistance is 
meant citizens who are Christians or ecclesiastical groups corpor- 
ately considered. The question has its interest in the light of the 
debate in theological, legal and military circles in Germany on 
Widerstandsrecht and the justification of the abortive revolt of 
July 20, 1944, against Hitler. 3 Reference to 'the extension of 

1 The dangers were described as: 'on the one hand the temptation to succumb to anti- 
communist hysteria and the danger of a self-nghteous assurance concerning the political 
and social systems of the "West; on the other hand the temptation to accept the false 
promises of communism and to overlook its threat to any responsible society'. Evanston, 
p. 122. 

2 'The Church should seek to resist the extension of any system that not only includes 
oppressive elements but fails to provide any means by -which the victims of oppression 
may criticise or act to correct it. It is part of the mission of the Church to raise its voice of 
protest wherever men are the victims of terror, wherever they are denied such fundamental 
human rights as the right to be secure against arbitrary arrest, and wherever governments 
use torture and cruel punishments to intimidate the consciences of men.' Amsterdam, p. 79. 

a The issue arose in connexion with the speeches of the former commander of the 
Berlin, garrison, Otto Ernst Remer, leader of the neo-Nazi Socialist Reich Party, attacking 
the memory of the generals involved iu the July 20 revolt as traitors and oath-breakers. 
After hearing the expeit testimony of historians, military specialists and moral theologians, 
a Brunswick court on March 15, 1952, sentenced Remer and exonerated the generals on 
the grounds that the Third Reich could be considered an 'illegal State'. Subsequently, 
Dr. Hermann "Wemkauff, presiding justice of the German Federal Republic's highest 
court, wrote a personal memorandum as a contribution to the discussion of a study group 
headed by former Wehrmacht Maj.-Gen. Hermann J. W. von Witzleben who seeks to 
provide a 'clear moral compass' for the knotty questions of the limits of State sovereignty 
and the roots of civil obedience. Chief Justice Weinkauff blamed juridical positivism 
for leaving military men, politicians and jurists helpless and without counsel before the 
phenomenon of State power used for criminal ends. 


such systems' and later writings of the author of the paragraph, 
Professor John C. Bennett, make it clear that Soviet-centred 
communism, is the object, and that the resistance envisaged is 
that to be offered by ecclesiastical bodies in their support of UN 
collective security action on the political level and, on the 
spiritual level, in inculcating and demonstrating 'a positive witness 
to Christ in word and deed'. 1 

The problem was beyond the purview of the Stockholm 
Conference of 1925 with its optimistic expectation of a tranquil 
international order supervised by die League of Nations and of a 
steady amelioration of social conditions through the ministrations 
of the International Labour Office and programmes of progressive 
legislation. In Russia, to be sure, there was religious persecution 
and a government-promoted 'Living Church', but Russia was a 
distant land of closed frontiers, ostracized from the international 
community and preoccupied with its own radical transformation. 
The problem had arrived in all its inescapable acuity when the 
Oxford Conference convened in July 1937: in Germany the 
Bekenntnisskirche was making its protest while other Lutheran 
and Evangelical bodies were bewildered and stunned. Though 
Mein Kampf had announced the doctrine of Lebensraum for the 
Master Race, public opinion in Europe preferred to believe that 
Hitler sought only rectification of the Versailles settlement; he 
had not breached any frontiers, it was argued, in occupying the 
demilitarized Rhineland which, after all, was German territory. 
The topic of resistance seems not to have come up in the dis- 
cussions of the Section on Church and State at Oxford. The 
Conference sent a strong message of sympathy and solidarity to 
the Evangelical Church in Germany (whose delegates had been 
refused visas to attend the Assembly) and voted to send a com- 
mittee to communicate the conclusions of the Conference to the 
German churches. Three representatives of the German Free 
Churches who were present protested against the Message, 
extolled the achievements of the Hitler regime and declared that 

1 Our Responsibilities as Christians in Face of the Challenge of Communism, Geneva: 
World Council, March 1942 (mimeographed), Study Document 52E/333. 


they had remained 'perfectly neutral' in the conflict between 
the government and the established churches. 1 

Such neutralism was loudly condemned by Protestantism's 
most powerful voice, that of Professor Karl Barth. 'A clear 
choice must be made between the policy of compromise and the 
policy of resistance' proclaimed the Swiss theologian who made 
his choice clear by writing his famous Letters urging greater 
effort in the war against Nazism. 2 Long before the religious 
crisis in Germany had become so plain, a Conference of the 
Ecumenical Youth Commission had bluntly urged the churches 
'to dissociate themselves from every Church that does not affirm 
this universalism [of the Word of God], on the ground that it is 
not Christian'. 3 The General Secretary of the World Council of 
Churches in Process of Formation permitted himself some 
adequately unneutral observations during the war. 4 Dr. Visser 
't Hooft was speaking at a meeting of a relief society working for 
the Bekenntnisskirche. His exaggeration was undoubtedly intended 
to underscore the bravery of that group of Christians in Germany 
and win them greater support in Switzerland. Few men were 
better informed about the determined resistance of die churches 
during the war. 

Confronting communism, however, the mind of the ecumen- 
ical world does not discern the same sharp issues nor do its 
prophetic voices find material for similar utterance. Many 
reasons have been alleged for this difference of attitude and some 
have been suggested earlier when the Amsterdam judgment on 
'Communism and Capitalism.' was examined. A feeling that 

1 Commented Dr. Nils Ehrenstrom, Director of the World Council's Study Depart- 
ment, writing in 1952: 'It was a telling testimony but in quite a different sense from, that 
which the speaker had intended.' History, p. 588. 

* Quoted in EPS, July 1941, 28, p. 6. Earth's "Letter to American Christians' with 
comments by US ecumenical leaders appeared in Christendom vin (Autumn, 1943). 4> 
pp. 441-72. 

3 History, p. 583. 

4 'The distress of the Church is not the external pressure to which it is exposed today; 
the real distress of the Church is that the Church is not a Church. The frightful danger is 
not that the Churches in many countries are being outwardly crushed but that the 
Churches are not speaking and acting in this decisive hour as the Church of Jesus Christ 
ought to speak and act.' Quoted in EPS, November 1941, 41. P- * 


communism's declared passion for social justice parallels the 
objectives of Christian social reform movements seems frequently 
behind the repeated remark that communism is a 'Christian 
heresy'. 1 The conviction that a sharpening of ideological tensions 
increases the likelihood of a general war which, in an age of 
nuclear weapons, would imperil civilization itself and, in any 
case, only breed worse disorders is another factor. Not to be 
discounted is a subtle anti-Americanism, endemic on the Con- 
tinent, which sees the spiritual heritage of Christian Europe 
equally menaced by two materialist giants. 2 

Finally, the massive authority of Karl Barth has exercised a 
considerable influence in this difference of attitude in ecumenical 
circles. 3 Reporting on 'The Reformed Churches Behind the 
Iron Curtain' after a visit in early 1948 the doughty and inde- 
fatigable foe of Nazism declared that 'the Reformed Church in 
Hungary is on the right road'. 4 In an ensuing controversy with 
Emil Brunner who protested that Earth's views were 'incompre- 
hensible to those who see no basic difference between the 
Communist or any other form of totalitarianism, for instance 
the National Socialist', the theologian of Basle answered that the 

1 Clarity was not helped by a similar paradox of Dante in placing Mohammed among 
the Christian 'sowers of schism' in The Divine Comedy, nor by R. H. Tawney terming 
Marx 'the last of the Schoolmen', i.e. Scholastic philosophers. 

2 Writing in a private capacity, an American who is a Secretary in the World Council 
Study Department asked: 'Is it too cynical to suggest that the lofty view which many 
Christians on the continent hold regarding the sins of the East and West is to be attributed 
not to the purity of their Christian witness but to an understandable reluctance to avoid 
having to take sides politically?' Paul R. Abrecht in Christianity and Crisis x (March 20, 
1950), p. 28. 

3 Reinhold Niebuhr notes that the German, Pastor Martin NiemoUer; the Czech, 
Professor Josef Hromadka; and the Hungarian, Bishop Albert Bereczky, are disciples of 
Barth who, 'despite explicit disavowal of secular ideologies, is influenced by a Marxist 
estimate of America as a "capitalist" country'. Niebuhr believes that Barth has 'a confi- 
dence in the "Socialist" economy of Russia which obscures the nature of her totalitarian 
regime'. 'Communism and the Clergy', Christian Century ixx (August 19, 1953), 33, 
P- 937- 

4 'What carried conviction for me was this: that the Hungarian Reformed Protestants 
were not preoccupied with the undecided question of East versus West, nor with the 
memory of the Russian horror, nor with the question of the justice or injustice of their 
present government. They are trying to formulate the Word of God in fresh terms 
(which involves fundamental reconsideration on the theological side).' Kirchenblatt filr 
die refortnierte Schweiz, April 29, 1948, as quoted in EPS, May 7, 1948. The article is 
reprinted in Earth's Against the Stream, pp. 101 ff. 


Church's concern is 'not with isms of this kind or that'. 1 Earth's 
definitive exposition of his counsel that a Christian should not 
'take sides' was expounded in 1948 in a widely quoted conference, 
'The Church Between East and West', which viewed the crisis 
primarily as another instance of the perennial struggle for power 
among nations occurring in history, a political issue of 'absolutely 
no concern to Christians'. 2 There is, he concedes, also a clash of 
ideologies, but an examination of American and Soviet societies 
produces the diagnosis that they have the same postulates, and 
the verdict of 'a plague on both your houses !' 3 Anticipating the 

1 Quoted in EPS, June 24, 1948. Bruiiner's Open Letter and Earth's Reply are both 
included in Against the Stream. His explanation: 'The Church must not concern itself 
eternally with various "isms" and systems but with historical realities as seen in the light 
of the Word of God and of the Faith. Its obligations he not in the direction of any 
fulfilling of the law of nature but towards its living Lord. Therefore the Church never 
thinks, speaks or acts "on principle". Rather it judges spiritually and by individual cases. 
For that reason it rejects every attempt to systematize political history and its own part 
in that history. Therefore it preserves the freedom to judge each new event afresh. If 
yesterday it travelled along one path, it is not bound to keep to the same path today. 
If yesterday it spoke from its position of responsibility, then today it should be silent if 
in this position it considers silence to be the better course. The unity and continuity of 
theology will best be preserved if the Church does not let itself be discouraged from being 
up-to-date theologically.' Ibid,, p. 114. 

a In English translation the conference appeared in World Affairs (London), July and 
August issues of 1949, and in Cross Currents (New York), Winter 1951; it was published 
in French by Roulet (Paris, 1948), and included in the collection of Earth's post-war 
papers on political subjects, Against the Stream (1954). The General Secretary of the 
World Council agreed with Earth's emphasis, it would seem. Dr. Visser 't Hooft has 
declared: 'The Church is not to speak against the world as if it considers the world its 
enemy. It is precisely characteristic of the situation that whatever the world may do to 
the Church, however it may make war on its saints, the Church cannot forget that the 
world has been overcome, that its destiny has been decided and that, therefore, its denials 
and negations cannot change the ultimate outcome. The Church must, therefore, not 
fight back when it is attacked by the world. It should rather answer all opposition and 
all persecution by an even more joyous and certain affirmation that, in spite of all, its 
Lord reigns. . . . After all, the world is not half so dangerous for the Church as the Church 
is for itself.' The Kingship of Christ, p. 129. 

8 In an Open Letter on German Rearmament appearing in Esprit, January 1951, 
pp. 105-12, under the title, 'Ne Craignez Point", Earth wrote that American imperialism 
is not the only, nor even the chief cause of the present impasse and acknowledged that, 
were he an American or English statesman, he would not neglect military defence 
measures. Seemingly, however, that is the interest and task of the homo pcliticus, not that 
of the homo christianus; and never the twain shall meet. In the Open Letter Earth allies 
himself with Dr. Gustav Heinemann and Pastor Martin Niemoller. During the war 
Barth harshly upbraided Niemoller for his willingness to serve in Hider's forces. As 
quoted in Christian Century tvn (March 6, 1940), 10, p. 301. Cf. supra, p. u, n. i. 


objection that he proclaimed a Christian obligation to make war 
on Nazism, Barth explains that communism is different: its 
brutal hands are at least turned to a constructive task, the social 
problem; its honest avowal of atheism is infinitely preferable 
to the Nazi efforts to turn Christianity into a tribal religion 
and to the Nazi crime of anti-Semitism; it has no capacity 
to deceive Christians since there is nothing of the false prophet 
about it. 

While sharing Earth's determination to keep the churches 
micoimnitted on the East-West issue, other thinkers in the 
World Council constituency are disturbed precisely by the very 
messianism of communism which Barth denies; they are worried 
over the success of communism's insistence that it is the wave 
of the future in whose flux the Christian faith must navigate, 
if it is to survive and not be lost in the wreckage of a sunken 
bourgeois world. From first-hand contact with the communist 
system in Hungary and East Germany the Lutherans have con- 
cluded that neutrality is impossible on the question of com- 
munism. 1 At the Assembly of the Federation of Protestantism's 
largest denomination in July 1952, delegates, gathered at Hanover, 
Germany, heard Norway's Bishop Eivind Berggrav, a President 
of the World Council of Churches, call for active resistance to 
communism. 2 Bishop Berggrav had himself displayed un- 
compromising resistance during the Nazi occupation of his 

Post-Amsterdam discussions, plus the experience of member 
churches in Eastern Europe, China and elsewhere, have contri- 
buted to a clarification of the issue. A study pamphlet on the 
Responsible Society theme, written by Professor John C. Bennett 

1 Declared the Executive Committee of the "World Lutheran Federation in July 1949: 
'Christians cannot escape the tumult of these days ... die Church of God cannot keep 
silence when the liberty of men is endangered as it is today. There can be no compromise 
with any effort to organize a social order that infringes upon the individual freedom and 
the personal responsibility of human beings as created in the likeness of God and redeemed 
by His Christ.' Quoted in EPS, July 29, 1940, p. 219. 

2 'Gullible stupidity is neither Christian nor Lutheran The most important of 

Luther's occasional utterances on this subject [obedience to rulers] is his statement that 
princes and Christian citizens need not obey emperors and kings who plainly violate the 
law. . . . Translated into modern terminology this means: active resistance.' Ibid. 


and issued in November 1949, observed tbat, given the geograph- 
ical spread of its membership, 'It is to be expected that within 
the constituency of the World Council there will be quite 
different views concerning the attitude which Christians should 
take towards Communism.' Considerations on which an answer 
should be based for 'one of the most difficult questions in the life 
of the World Council of Churches' appeared to the author to 
assume that communism as a faith must be resisted spiritually 
by Christians under all circumstances and that the extension of 
communist power must be resisted politically wherever there is 
a constructive alternative. 1 A later document by the same author, 
'Our Responsibility as Christians in Face of the Challenge of 
Communism', circulated by the Study Department in March 
1952, analysed the issue on four levels: the international conflict, 
the struggle for power between nations, particularly between 
Russia and America; the conflict between communism and 
capitalism as economic systems; the conflict between com- 
munism as totalitarian and a society that is open and pluralistic; 
and, finally, the conflict between communism as a faith and 
Christianity, While the Church must not offer the Gospel as a 
conservative anti-communist weapon or as a means of escape 
from social and political dilemmas, concluded Professor Bennett, 
it should inspire its members to resist the expansion of the political 
power-complex based on the Soviet Union, because communism 
is a faith that engenders a totalitarian system. Where political 
resistance to that system is impossible, spiritual resistance is 
always open to Christians, not least by presenting on every 
occasion the truths of religion as being different from the premises 
of the communist faith. 

1 Geneva: World Council Study Department, pp. 14-15. "The conviction that is most 
widely held among the member churches is that Communism as a movement which has 
its base in the Soviet Union, and through Communist parties is seeking to extend its 
power throughout the world, should be resisted both politically and spiritually, and that 
the churches in the countries associated with "Western democracy" should give moral 
support to their governments in their efforts to check the extension of Communist 
power. . . . The whole ecumenical community, whatever differences there may be 
among its members about policies in particular nations, should recognize that it has a 
responsibility to do what is possible to prevent the world from coming under Communist 
domination.' Ibid., p. 14. 


The popular Introductory Leaflet on the Responsible Society 
theme prepared by the Study Department for the general 
membership of the churches pointed out that 'the churches must 
study some of the effects of the challenge of Communism on 
their own unity, especially as it affects their witness in society'. 
It noted that: 'There are some Christians who tliink they can 
co-operate with Communism because they see it as a short cut 
to a new order of greater material abundance and greater justice.' 
It pointed on the other hand to 'the temptation to engage in 
sterile anti-Communist hysteria and the danger of a self-righteous 
assurance concerning the political and social systems of the 
West'. 1 Whatever judgment recommended itself to observers 
in Geneva, the fact is that different attitudes have been adopted, 
different policies have been followed and different conceptions 
are held by member churches of the World Council living in 
communist-controlled countries on the means by which the social 
function of the Church can be fulfilled. 2 

In view of the complete autonomy left to each member church 
by the World Council's Constitution, there could be no question 
of the Assembly passing judgment on the choice of policy 
exercised by any ecclesiastical communion in this matter. To the 
Responsible Society Section it seemed best to alert its membership 
to the appeal of communism in underdeveloped countries and 
suggest some questions on the possible dangers facing Christians 
living in either communist or non-communist societies. The 
questions deemed urgent in a special way for Christians in 
communist lands turned on the means of manifesting effectively 

1 The Responsible Society in a World Perspective, pp. 7-8. 

2 The two views held within the World Council constituency by those living under 
communist regimes were stated thus in the Evanston Survey: 'The new economic 
society of communism is seen as the first step towards the classless society, which is a 
provisional hope which Christians can also affirm,' The other viewpoint 'sees in com- 
munism the attempt of another total ideology, a false faith, to press human beings into 

_its mould and to wield total power in the world . . . the task of Christians is to analyse 
the forces of society in the knowledge that God in Christ is their Lord and Judge, who 
has prescribed their true functions; to judge the policies of the government with sober 
empiricism, according to whether they serve the needs and preserve the freedoms of 
human beings, to act in whatever range God grants, in responsibility for one's neighbour 
in His Kingdom, without too much strategy, without too much hope for success or fear 
for the consequences'. CHTC, pp. 55, 57. 


their faith in the presence of an official atheistic ideology and on 
the legitimacy of co-operating with the social programme of 
such a regime. 1 

The plight of Christians in such a situation is surely an agonizing 
one, undoubtedly more complicated than the Evanston Report 
succeeded in making clear. A certain amount of co-operation 
with the totalitarian system is inevitable on the part of every 
citizen living under such a regime. 2 To begin with, the right 
of non-participation, the freedom to be silent, to subtract oneself 
from the compulsory chorus of adulation, is not recognized in 
practice under such regimes. Surely the World Council would 
not consider such an attitude as succumbing to 'the temptations 
of a negative resistance' and, in consequence, blameworthy. 
(The moral legitimacy of active resistance seems ruled out by the 
Evanston Report.) The choice of the phrase 'prophetic witness' 
in the text was not particularly fortunate; its meaning escapes 
the general reader and obscures the understanding of the attitude 
of the World Council on a topic of universal interest. The 
question on 'the place of suffering in Christian social witness' 

1 '00 What are the ways and what is the content of Christian witness in the face of 
atheistic ideologies? (2) What is the social significance of the existence of the Church as an 
inclusive worshipping and evangelistic community? How can the life of the congregation 
in. all its forms, including its pastoral and social work, affect society? How does the 
Church's teaching ministry relate to state education tinder a communist regime? 
(3) What reforms are necessary in the life and structure of the Church? What are the 
values and dangers of agreements between Church and State? (4) At what points can the 
Church and Christians co-operate with governments in their plans for social reconstruction? 
What are the limits of this co-operation? How does Christian social responsibility avoid 
both surrender to communism and the temptations of a negative resistance? (5) What 
new forms of prophetic ministry are required? How far are pubhc statements by the 
Church on social questions effective? (6) What Christian witness can church members 
bear in their daily work? What is the place of suffering in Christian social witness? 
(7) What, if any, is the Church's responsibility for standards of truth in all fields? For 
pre-communist social and cultural traditions? What is the relation between a Christian 
demand and a communist demand for repentance for past social injustices?' Evanston, 
pp. 122-3. 

2 'If individual life is to go on at all within the totalitarian framework, it must go on by 
arrangement with the regime and to some extent in connivance with its purposes. 
Furthermore, there will always be areas in which the totalitarian government will 
succeed in identifying itself with popular feelings and aspirations. . . . These realities leave 
no room for our favoured conviction that the people of a totalitarian state can be neatly 
divided into collaborators and martyrs and that there will be none left over.' George P. 
Kennan, American Diplomacy, 1900-11)50, p. 140. 


suggests an awareness of the existence of compulsion and of 
psychological pressure in communist regimes, an allusion with 
interesting moral implications, particularly in view of the 
controversy in the United States occasioned by the admission of 
an American Protestant missionary that he had deliberately lied 
and had knowingly signed a false confession to win surcease from 
the 'brain-washing' inflicted on him by the Chinese communist 

The questions of special urgency posed for Christians in non- 
communist lands involve attitudes towards the secularism of 
society, the responsibility of the churches by reason of their 
accommodation to bourgeois values and the function of the 
churches to defend traditions of freedom allegedly imperilled 
by social conformity. 1 The dangers of an over-emphasis on 
military defence in non-communist countries had been pointed 
out earlier; it can be assumed, therefore, that the Drafting 
Committee was prepared to concede that communism constituted 
in some fashion a threat of armed aggression. 

The modes of expressing the social function of the Church 
in communist and non-communist societies were thus left to the 
prayerful decisions of the membership of the World Council of 
Churches. The approach adopted by the Evanston Assembly was 
publicly commended by Bishop Jdnos Pe"ter, speaking for the 
Hungarian delegation, 2 The two views, of co-operation with 

1 '(i) What are the special temptations of the Church in a traditional "Christian society"? 
(2) Does secularism in the non-communist world differ from the materialism in. the 
communist world? (3) What is the content of Christian witness towards the large mass 
of secularized people? How far is this secularization due to the class nature of the Church 
and the accommodation of its life and message to bourgeois interests and values? What 
reforms in the life of the Church are necessary to meet these challenges? (4) How far are 
the churches in non-communist lands genuinely prophetic in their relation to society and 
the state? (5) What is the responsibility of the churches in non-communist lands for the 
cultivation of traditions of freedom and community over against the growing prcssme 
towards social conformity?' Evanston, p. 133. 

a Security provisions of US immigration legislation presented difficulties for the 
delegates some of them politically controversial personalities travelling to the Evanston 
Assembly from East European countries. Thus it was that, when asked to explain the 
restricted visa given Bishop Peter, the State Department declared that the Hungarian 
delegate had not performed ecclesiastical functions or occupied a pulpit since he became 
a church official on December 8, 1949, that he receives 4,000 floruits monthly known as a 
'supplement of danger' from his government, a stipend generally paid to the police and 


communist regimes in work of social reform or resistance at 
specific points with spiritual power, are equally valid, as the 
election of Professor Josef Hromadka to the World Council's 
Executive Committee made clear. 


The whole history of the Ecumenical Movement and indeed 
the definition of its organized form as a 'fellowship of churches' 
from all continents makes it inevitable that the international order 
will be one of the primary concerns of the World Council of 

The advantages of co-ordinating the world-wide missionary 
enterprise of the churches suggested the summoning of the 
Edinburgh Conference of 1910, which set in motion events 
culminating in the Amsterdam Assembly of 1948 which consti- 
tuted the World Council of Churches. The World Alliance for 
International Friendship through the Churches, an unofficial 
effort to pool the interest and influence of churchmen of many 
nations on behalf of greater international understanding, was 
one of the chief factors responsible for the Stockholm Conference 
of 1925 where the Universal Christian Conference on Life and 
Work, one of the parent organizations of the World Council of 
Churches, took shape. 

The pace and direction of contemporary history, the unification 
of the globe through trade and especially by modern means of 
transport and communications accompanied by a sharpening of 
national rivalries and the rise of secular religions, undoubtedly 
hastened the search for church unity. 'The world is too strong 
for a divided Church,' declared the message of the Stockholm 

When die representatives of the churches gathered at Amster- 
dam in August 1948 'to covenant together* to form the World 
Council of Churches a heavy menace hung over humanity, 
mocking the sanguine expectations which marked the origins of 

soldiers on special missions, and that he had served as an 'informer' for the communist 
r6gime against anti-communist clergymen. Cf. New York Times, August 18, 1954. p- <> 


the Life and Work Movement. 1 'To promote friendship between 
the nations' was one of the purposes listed in the Official Letter 
of Invitation for the Stockholm Conference. In 1925 the task of 
reconciling the Germans and making the war-guilt clause of the 
Versailles Treaty acceptable seemed the chief obstacle to a grow- 
ing, general harmony of nations. Less than twenty-five years 
later, another ecumenical gathering noted, in a memorable 
euphemism: 'The World Council of Churches is met in its first 
Assembly at a time of critical international strain.' The Report 
of Amsterdam's Section IV, 'The Chtirch and the International 
Disorder', declared: 'The hopes of the recent war years and the 
apparent dawn of peace have been dashed. . . . Men are asking in 
fear and dismay what the future holds.' 

Had the Section pondered the significance of the Second 
Report of the UN Atomic Energy Commission, issued on 
May 28, less than three months before? An impasse had been 
reached in the effort to achieve international control of atomic 
energy, the Commission reported, the Soviet Government 
insisting that the plan involved an unwarranted invasion of 
national sovereignty, the majority opinion replying that the 
Soviet counter-proposals provided no protection against non- 
compliance. The month before the World Council came into 
being, the United Nations Military Staff Committee reported its 
utter failure, 'because of disagreement on general principles', to 
devise an acceptable plan for the armed forces to be available to 
the Security Council according to Article 4.2 of the UN Charter. 
That juridical instrument, devised 'to maintain the peace', had 
become the forum of unrestrained mutual recriminations. Were 
the Amsterdam delegates aware that General Lucius D. Clay 
had asked his government on July 10 to authorize the dispatch 
of an armed column into Berlin to break the blockade of that 

1 In his sermon opening the Stockholm Conference the Bishop of Winchester declared: 
'We may sum it [the international situation] up, in fact, by saying that a new community- 
conscience is fast being formed and that this is already making itself felt as something to 
be reckoned within the dealings of nations with one another, or groups and persons within, 
those nations. A new bulwark has been built against every kind of tyranny, and this 
has been the result of centuries of personal influence and active propaganda on the part 
of those who believe in the Kingdom of God.' Stockholm, p. 43. 


city? 1 If so, they might well have wondered if war would break 
in on their peaceful discussions as it had on the ecumenical 
gatherings at Constance in 1914 and at Apeldoorn, Holland, in 
January 1940. 

Despite the manifest international disorder, the Amsterdam 
Assembly refused to be discouraged. The Report of Section IV 
proclaimed that the world is in God's hands, that war, a conse- 
quence of the disregard of God, 'is not inevitable if man will 
turn to Him. in repentance and obey His law. ... By accepting 
His Gospel, men will find forgiveness for all their sins and receive 
power to transform their relations with their fellow men.* The 
World Council of Churches found its own formation a factor 
in international affairs. 2 

Since the Amsterdam Assembly of 1948, observed the Survey 
prepared for the Evanston delegates, Vast changes in the world 
scene have taken place'. Among the events and tendencies, noted 
in the summary review, are the entry of China into the com- 
munist camp, an intensification of the struggle between two 
great blocs of world powers which has affected the character 
of the United Nations as an impartial arbiter in international 
affairs, the strains resulting from the defence programme in the 
Western world, the fear of the use of atomic and other weapons 
of mass destruction, action on behalf of underdeveloped areas, 
efforts looking to the political and economic unification of 
Europe and a growing consciousness of the importance of basic 
human rights. 

Against this disturbed and ever-changing background of events, 
the World Council of Churches fosters the concerns which 
earlier characterized the activity of the Universal Christian 

1 Cf. Lucius D. Clay, Decision in Germany, p. 374. 

a 'It [the World Council] is a living expression of this fellowship, transcending race 
and nation, class and culture, knit together in faith, service and understanding. Its aim 
will be to hasten international reconciliation through its own members and through the 

co-operation of all Christian churches and of all men of goodwill It should not weary 

in. the effort to state the Christian understanding of the will of God and to promote its 
application to national and international policy.' Amsterdam, p. 95. To achieve these 
purposes the World Council of Churches had joined with the International Missionary 
Council to form the Commission of the Churches on International AiFairs. 


Council on Life and Work and the World Alliance for Promoting 
International Friendship through the Churches. These primary 
preoccupations are (i) the prevention of war, (2) the establish- 
ment of a rule of law in international affairs protected by inter- 
national institutions, and (3) the safeguarding of human rights, 
especially religious liberty. The CCIA and various national 
commissions are the official agencies charged to pursue these 
objectives formally in the spirit proclaimed at Evanston, 'ready 
to face situations that seem hopeless and yet to act in them as 
men whose hope is indestructible'. 

i. The Prevention of War and the Building of Peace 

Confronted by the idea of war the Ecumenical Community 
has no reservations in declaring: 'War as a method of settling 
disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our 
Lord Jesus Christ.' 1 This unqualified judgment of Amsterdam's 
Section IV echoed the mind of the Oxford Conference of 193 7 a 
and anticipated the verdict of Evanston that war's Violence and 
destruction are inherently evil'. 

Facing the fact of war, three broad positions are found among 
the World Council's membership, a trilemma of opinion ex- 
pressed also at the Oxford Conference. 3 In the language of 
Amsterdam's Section IV Report: 

1. There are those who hold that, even though entering a war 
may be a Christian's duty in particular circumstances, modern 
warfare, with its mass destruction, can never be an act of justice. 

2. In. the absence of impartial supra-national institutions, there 
are those who hold that military action is the ultimate sanction of the 
rule of law, and that citizens must be distincdy taught that it is their 
duty to defend the law by force if necessary. 

3. Others, again, refuse military service of all kinds, convinced 

I Amsterdam, p. 89. 

II 'War is a particular demonstration of the power of sin in this world, and a defiance 
of the righteousness of God as revealed in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. No justification 
of war must be allowed to conceal or minimize this fact.' Oxford, p. 178. 

3 Ibid., p. 179. Dr. Visser 't Hooft, now General Secretary of the World Council, was 
chairman at Oxford of the Committee considering 'The Christian Attitude to War'. 


that ail absolute witness against war and for peace is for them the 
will of God and they desire that the Church should speak to the 
same effect. 1 

Conceding the deep perplexity occasioned by these conflicting 
opinions, the Report urged upon all Christians the duty of 
wrestling continuously with these problems and of praying 
humbly for God's guidance. The Survey for Evanston, however, 
did not believe that these three opinions have been sufficiently 
re-examined and reformulated to warrant extensive discussion 
at the 1954 Assembly. 2 

As the event proved, in the face of the horrors of weapons of 
mass destruction, the delegates to the Second Assembly were 
prepared to accord the pacifists a more respectful and sympathetic 
hearing; in the face of threats to human freedom, the pacifists 
showed themselves at Evanston more realistic, less inclined to 
regard Gandhi as a Father of the Church. The theological debate 
in the Ecumenical Community on the legitimacy of recourse to 
arms and the circumstances conceivably justifying the use of 
force, if not adjourned, yields place to the consideration of the 
means of preventing war and creating an international community. 
World peace is the goal, declared Evanston, and the Christian 
approaches to peace must be studied afresh, 'taking into account 
both Christian pacificism as a mode of witness and the conviction 
of Christians that in certain circumstances military action is 

The peace pursued by the World Council of Churches means 
far more than the absence of war. In the words of the Second 
Assembly, it 'is characterized positively by freedom, justice, truth 
and love'. It is a task making strong demands on Christian hope 3 

1 Amsterdam, p. 89. 

a 'Pacifist Christians have not faced sufficiently the charge that they make an absolute 
of peace at the expense of justice. Non-pacifist Christians who hold the conception of a 
"just war" have not sufficiently examined the implications of the new mass-destruction 
weapons for the idea of just means.' CHTC, p. 47. 

One ambiguous passage in the Evanston Report on International Affairs leaves the 
reader undecided whether the World Council believes that enduring peace is impossible 
(i) before die human race is converted to Christianity, or (2) without the help of God's 


and, like every important goal, something to be worked 
for. 1 

The Stockholm Conference of 1925, reflecting doubtless the 
relatively untroubled international atmosphere and the optimism 
of the immediate post-war world, contented itself with gener- 
alities. 2 Amsterdam had a number of concrete suggestions: 
prompt completion of peace treaties with the defeated nations 
enabling them to rebuild their economic and political systems 
for peaceful purposes, the return of prisoners of war and the 
termination of purges and war crimes trials. Such precise 
demands were in addition to a declaration of the more general 
duties of the churches to safeguard their independence against all 
attempts to involve them in national and ideological causes, to 
teach unabashedly love of one's enemy and so 'withstand every- 
thing in the Press, radio or school which inflames hatred or 
hostility between nations', to promote the reduction of arma- 
ments, to resist the pretensions of imperialist power, to combat 
indifference and despair in the face of the threat of war. De- 
nouncing all forms of tyranny, 'economic, political or religious', 
opposing 'aggressive imperialism political, economic or cultural', 
the Amsterdam Section IV Report expressed its belief that 'the 
greatest threat to peace today comes from the division of the 
world into mutually suspicious and antagonistic blocs'. It con- 
cluded that 'a positive attempt must be made to ensure that the 
competing economic systems such as communism, socialism 
or free enterprise may co-exist without leading to war'. 

The causes of war, it was pointed out, must be attacked 'by 

grace. Thus: 'The Assembly believes that an international order conformed to the will 
of God and established in His peace can be achieved only through, the reconciliation which 
Christ makes possible. Only thus will those transformed attitudes and standards, agree- 
ments and practices which alone will ensure lasting peace become possible.' Evanston, 
p. 134- 

1 The Annual Reports of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs 
indicate that this agency of the World Council, within the limits of its resources, con- 
sidered as relevant to its responsibility almost the entire agenda of the United Nations 
Assembly, its Commissions and Specialized Agencies. 

2 'We summon the Churches to share with us our sense of the horror of war and of its 
futility as a means of settling international disputes and to pray and work for the fulfilment 
of the promise that under the sceptre of the Prince of Peace "mercy and truth shall meet 
together, righteousness and peace shall kiss each other".' Stockholm, p. 713. 


promoting peaceful change and the pursuit of justice'. The idea 
thus simply stated had been the principal preoccupation of out- 
standing lay leaders in the Ecumenical Movement, particularly those 
whose professional careers included experience in government ser- 
vice or teaching international law. In the absence of a superior 
political authority, noted the Oxford Conference, voluntary action, 
force or the threat of force were the only methods available to 
bring the international order into conformity with changing needs. 1 
Adequate factual knowledge of the international situation was 
indicated as essential in the exercise of the responsibility of 
Christians to work for a policy of peaceful change on the part 
of their governments. The support of juridical institutions making 
for international order the League of Nations, 2 the Permanent 
Court of International Order, arbitration treaties, etc. was 
strongly urged. The inevitability of change in human societies 
and the capital importance of channelling evolving forces and of 
registering new situations through instruments of free inter- 
national co-operation was the key concept of the paper prepared 
for the Amsterdam background volume on international affairs 
by John Foster Dulles. 8 

1 'It therefore particularly devolves upon Christians to devote themselves to securing 
by voluntary action of their nations such changes in the international order as are from 
time to time required to avoid injustice and to promote equality of opportunity for 
individuals throughout the world.' Oxford, p. 174. German repudiation of the Versailles 
Treaty and Italian demands for a place in the sun provided the context for this recognition 
of the need of provisions for change in. the international order. Whether the Oxford 
delegates were aware of the ideological springs of the Nazi and Fascist regimes which 
accepted war as an instrument of public policy cannot be ascertained. Certainly the 
influence of the official ideologies was overtly minimized outside Germany and Italy. 
Did the Amsterdam delegates in 1948 similarly underestimate the importance of the 
official ideology of the Soviet Union as a complicating factor in effecting changes in the 
international order when they spoke (in the Section IV Report) of the co-existence of 
'competing economic systems such as communism, socialism or free enterprise"? Once 
again, the decision to forego historical analysis, the policy of eschewing pronouncements 
on concrete political realities, the decision to remain 'beyond East and West', makes it 
impossible to know. 

*Ibtd., p. 175. The Oxford Conference's characterization of the possibilities and 
weaknesses of the League of Nations bears a disconcerting resemblance to the statement, 
'Christians Look at the United Nations', issued by the CCIA Executive Committee 
in August 1953. Cf. CHTC, p. 10. 

8 'The Christian Citizen in a Changing World' in The Church and the International 
Disorder, pp. 73 ff. Mr. DuUes's mind and hand can be seen also in the Oxford emphasis 
on die need of provisions for peaceful change in the international order. 


The possibility of peaceful change in the international order 
involves a multiplicity of factors all of which have claimed the 
attention of the World Council constituency in various degrees. 
A limited surrender of national sovereignty is considered a 
primary condition. This implies, first of all, recognition that 
dealings between nations no less than individual human conduct 
are subject to a rule of right and wrong, a moral order that is a 
consequence of God's sovereignty over nations as well as persons. 
The heart of the present evil, in its political expression, thought 
the Oxford Conference of 1937, was 'the claim of each nation 
State to be judge in its own cause'. The abandonment of that 
claim 'and the abrogation of absolute national sovereignty', at 
least to that extent, 'was judged a duty the Church should urge 
upon the nations'. By 1948 the experience of the United Nations 
had convinced the Amsterdam Section IV delegates that 'unless 
the nations surrender a greater measure of national sovereignty 
in the interest of the common good, they will be tempted to have 
recourse to war in order to enforce their claims'. 1 

It is not by reason of any advocacy of world government as an 
immediate objective that the "World Council of Churches, through 
the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, presses 
for a limitation of national sovereignty. 2 Effective international 
co-operation in some fields of traditional ecumenical concern 
supposes a certain pooling of political authority. Thus, by its 
charter the CCIA has among its objectives "the international 
regulation of armaments'. To that end, its officers offered sug- 
gestions in February 1951 on the progressive reduction of national 
armaments, in view of the failure of the United Nations to 
organize an international military force. But any serious dis- 
armament measure, it was pointed out, presupposes effective and 
continuous inspection and control on national territories under 

1 Amsterdam, p. 92. 

a However, the Hungarian Ecumenical Study Commission, in the only statement 
from East Europe available for the pre-Evanston Survey, criticized any surrender of 
sovereignty, declaring: 'The end of this road . , , would be that the smaller, weaker, 
poorer nations would corne under the subjection of the richer, better-armed countries.' 
CHTC, p. 9. 


tlie United Nations. 'The reduction of armaments is not an 
arithmetical proposition but a political and, above all, a moral 
problem,' the CCIA Director, Dr. O. Frederick Nolde, declared. 
Methods of peaceful change to rectify injustices in the international 
order and to limit national sovereignty, at least to the degree 
necessary for effective international inspection and control of 
armaments, are required for building a stable peace, the Evanston 
Assembly repeated. 

Current efforts to reduce international tension and win time 
to allow the deeper and more creative influences of reconciliation 
to play their part were regarded as admittedly precarious but 
nevertheless morally imperative. The complexus of these 
efforts is popularly known as 'coexistence', a term avoided by the 
World Council 'because of its unhappy historical significance 
and some of its current political implications'. 1 The phrase 
preferred by the International Affairs Section of the Second 
Assembly was living together'. 

Evanston had some concrete suggestions on how the nations 
might at least 'live together'. So basic were judged two points 
'if catastrophe is to be avoided' that they were stated in a Reso- 
lution adopted by the Assembly at a plenary session. These were 
the prohibition of all weapons of mass destruction with provision 
for their international inspection and control and, secondly, the 
certain assurance that no country will engage in or support 
aggressive or subversive acts in other countries. As a point of 
departure for a more permanent concord between nations, the 
Report listed certain minimum conditions 2 to be met on both 

1 Evanston, p. 135. One of the implications of the term 'coexistence' was explicitly 
rejected: A 'willingness [on the part of Christians] to disguise from themselves or others 
the vast difference which lies between the search for an international order based on belief 
in Christ and His reconciling work, and the pursuit of aims which repudiate the Christian 

a ' (a) A conviction that it is possible for nations and peoples to live together, at least 
for a considerable period of years; (!>) A willingness not to use force as an instrument of 
policy beyond the existing frontiers. This would not mean the recognition, and freezing 
of present injustices and the unnatural divisions of nations, but it would mean renouncing 
coercion as a means of securing or redressing them; (c) A vigorous effort to end social and 
other injustices which might lead to civil and, hence, international war; (rf) A scrupulous 
respect for the pledged word; (c) A continuing effort to reach agreement on outstanding 


sides, conditions which amounted to mutual acceptance by the 
two opposing political systems and their willingness to employ 
methods of peaceful change. Beyond this limited state of 'living 
together' Evanston foresaw the possibilities of positive co- 
operation through the free exchange of persons, culture, 
information and trade, common undertakings for relief and the 
growth of the United Nations. To promote such understanding 
the Assembly advocated visits between representatives of the 
churches in those countries between which tension exists in 
order to strengthen the bonds of fellowship and promote the 
reconciliation of the nations. 

'The furtherance of international economic co-operation' is 
one of the objectives assigned to the Commission of the Churches 
on International Affairs, sponsored by the World Council. The 
topic raises questions of the right of access to raw materials in a 
given nation's territory or colonies, the freedom of international 
trade and even the legitimacy of unilateral fixing of national 
tariff policies. On these issues the Oxford Conference saw 'the 
unequal distribution of natural bounties' as one of the causes of 
war when control is used 'to create a monopoly of national 
advantages' and urged Christians to press their governments 
'to provide a reasonable equality of economic opportunity'. 1 
Amsterdam's Section IV was forthright on the ethical limitations 
of national economic practices and the obligation to subordinate 
particular programmes to universal needs. 2 The Second Assembly 
began its observations on 'What Nations Owe to One Another' 3 
with the declaration: 'The world community has become 
interdependent.' From this fact, it rejoiced to see international 
responsibility as exemplified by the UN Trusteeship system 
replacing 'old colonialism', though it warned that a self-sufficient 

issues, such as the peace treaties and disarmament, which are essential to a broader stabi- 
lization and pacification of relations; (/) Readiness to submit all unresolved questions of 
conflict to an impartial international organization and to carry out its decisions.' Evanston, 
p. 136. 

1 Oxford, p. 175. 

a 'No nation has the moral right to determine its own economic policy without con- 
sideration for the economic needs of other nations and without recourse to international 
consultation.,' Amsterdam, p. 91. 

z Evanston, pp. 137-8. 


attitude of nationalism, obvious in some of the newly independent 
countries, is an obstacle to international co-operation. A partner- 
ship between peoples hitherto 'subject' and 'ruling', with each 
side showing a readiness to learn from the other, was held otit as 
the ideal. The participation of more developed countries in 
international programmes of technical assistance was praised as 
'one of the brightest pages of recent history' but the effort was 
judged incommensurate with the resources available and the 
needs of the underdeveloped areas. 

The sub-theme chosen for the discussions on international 
affairs at the Evanston Assembly, 'Christians in the Struggle for 
World Community', the increasing emphasis in CCIA thinking 
on the importance of Technical Assistance programmes, the 
appeal, in the concluding sentence of the Evanston Survey, for 
'a larger ecumenical consensus oil the present and future signifi- 
cance of the UN for the defence of peace and justice, the pro- 
gressive development of international law and the building of a 
genuine world community', these are stray but significant signs 
of the international order which the "World Council of Churches 
favours one where the claims of narrow nationalism yield to 
the universal good of all men. The most effective action to 
prevent war is judged to be the constructing of a world com- 
munity through the strengthening of existing instruments of 
international co-operation. 1 

2. International Law and the Need for Institutions 

Introducing the volume prepared for the delegates to 
Amsterdam's Section on International Affairs, Sir Kenneth G. 
Grubb, Chairman of the CCIA, remarked: 'The Disorder of Man 
is to most men nowhere more painfully apparent than in inter- 
national relations; the Design of God for the nations is difficult to 
perceive.' 2 The phrase, a play of words on the Assembly's general 
theme, 'Man's Disorder and God's Design', was a protestation that 

1 Thus, Baron F. M. Van Asbeck, President of the CCIA, in The Church and the 
International Disorder. 'We shall not have to fight against war and national sovereignty, 
but to arm ourselves for a legal order above die states, for an international law with 
binding force, for "peace".' p. 65. a Ibid,, p. 13. 


the World Council of Churches had no blue-print to offer for 
the proper functioning of the contemporary world of nations. 
Indeed, concluded Sir Kenneth, in discussing the intractable field 
of international relations, the World Council of Churches 'raised 
more questions than can readily be answered, and some that 
cannot be answered, and some that cannot be answered in print 
and only by a divine miracle in life'. There is, nevertheless, a 
broad consensus of opinion in the World Council constituency 1 
on the desired direction of relations between people. It calls 
for a recognition of the sovereignty of God in the ordering of 
international affairs by the acceptance of international law 
administered by supranational institutions. 2 

The difficulties of achieving such an ideal are immediately 
obvious. 'Power politics and the attitude of mind it represents' 
was termed 'the root problem' of international conflict by the 
Oxford Conference. Certainly, the determination of each 
nation to fix its line of conduct exclusively in the light of its own 
interests is in disaccord with the 'rule of law' which the World 
Council constituency desires to see prevail in the world. Un- 
happily, however, international law manifests the weaknesses of 
contemporary international society. As Professor Max Huber 
explained to the group gathered at Bossey in April 1950 to discuss 
the problem, classical international law is by definition a com- 
plexus of contracts between sovereign national States. And 
Baron Van Asbeck, Professor of International Law at the 
University of Leyden, corrected any notion the Amsterdam 
delegates might have that contemporary international law is 
'the expression by a superior authority of the common conscience 
of a community, as is national law in homogeneous states'; it is, 
rather, in its 'insincerities, inconsistencies and uncertainties . . . 
a compromise between group-interests determined by their 

1 The Hungarian Ecumenical Commission, however, according to the Evanstou 
Survey, scorned reliance on institutional instruments of international order, insisting that 
the cross of Jesus Christ has provided all the necessary conditions of peace. CHTC, p, 8. 

2 The warnings against Utopian illusions regarding the United Nations sounded by the 
CCIA, the seeming innocence of the nature of international law in some World Council 
circles, the ignoring of ideological factors affecting international tension, suggest that the 
difficulties are not universally obvious to the Ecumenical Community. 


relative power'. 1 Distressing as the situation may be, it is in- 
evitable in the absence of a genuine world community, bound 
together by a pre-legal decision of a common conception of 
justice, common convictions on the purpose of man and human 
society. 'The concordia on which die pax hominum (Augustine) 
must be based does not exist.' 2 

The Bossey Conference on the foundations of international 
law, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the CCIA 
and the Ecumenical Institute in April 1950, urged the churches 
to 'rouse the nations and their governments to a consciousness 
of their duty to establish a just and lasting code of international 
law'. The codification of a legal system drawing on radically 
different conceptions of justice is a perplexing task. So is the 
establishment of an international order in the absence of an 
international ethos. Preparing for the Second Assembly, the 
Survey for the Section on International Affairs declared flatly that 
'the Christian obligation to seek die establishment of an inter- 
national ethos as a common foundation of moral principles for 
the world community has not been met'. Various reasons are 
suggested: the lack of systematic study of 'the basic principles 
of world order', the provincial oudook of Christians who 'do not 
yet sec international responsibility as part of the total field of 
Christian witness', and the need of more effective ecumenical 
organization, 'sound and active national commissions on inter- 
national affairs not names on paper but minds at work'. 

* The Church and the International Disorder, p. 57. Involved is the conflict on the nature 
of law underlined by Professor John H. Hallowell: law as 'the product of individual wills 
and subjective interest" versus law as 'the embodiment of eternal truths and values dis- 
coverable by reason'. Cf. The Moral Foundations of Democracy, p. 72. 

8 The Chwch and the International Disorder, p. 64. 'In the world society of today various 
religions, social conceptions, legal orders, ideologies, exist side by side, insulated or 
inter-related, some of them politically or even fundamentally disunited, connected by no 
common conviction; and inseparably bound up with that pluriformity is a difference of 
economic systems and of standards ofliving,' Hid., p. 51. Continuing, Baron Van Asbeck 
explained: 'When at die end of the Middle Ages the corpus christiantim of Europe broke 
up, die existing unity lost its common basis. That process went further and during the 
nineteenth century the society of states came to be suspended in the air of relative power. 
Since the nineteenth century we have been confronted with a new historical situation, 
viz., the existence side by side of isolated states, between which there is no moral or 


An international ethos, however, will not come into existence 
by declaring its necessity nor by omitting consideration of its 
possible basis. Baron F. M. Van Asbeck believes that the Oikumene, 
the ecumenical fellowship expressed in the World Council of 
Churches, is uniquely designed to achieve this common ethos, 
to discover by investigation of divisions and search of points of 
contact the solidarity of spiritual and moral unity beneath 
different world conceptions. Such a mission, he wrote in a 
chapter contributed to the Amsterdam preparatory volume, 
'is the task par excellence in the international world. . . . The 
ecumenical leaven should revolutionize the international world.' 1 

It is difficult to gauge how general are such hopes in World 
Council circles. In a chapter entitled "The Churches' Approacli 
to International Affairs' appearing in the same Amsterdam 
Assembly symposium two authors, 2 officially charged to influence 
public policy on behalf of the interests of the churches, reached 
a decidedly more modest view of such a possibility. 8 While 
they did not discuss the problem of working out 'the basic 
principles of world order* within the World Council constituency 
(resolving, in the process, the conflict between an 'ethic of 
inspiration' and an 'ethic of ends'), they did note in passing the 
question of collaboration, a methodology seemingly imperative 
in any effort to foster a common ethos harmonizing different 
world views. 4 

The strains put upon the Oikumene itself by contemporary 
ideological divisions makes dubious the possibility that 'an 
ecumenical fellowship, transcending all human divisions and 
groupings', could realize the goal the President of the Commission 
of the Churches on International Affairs set for it. Successive 

1 The Church and the International Disorder, pp. 67, 69. 

2 Roswell P. Barnes, Associate General Secretary, Federal Council of Churches, USA, 
and Kenneth G. Grubb, Chairman of the CCIA and of the International Department of 
the British Council of Churches. 

8 'The execution of policy in international relations is, as is the case in politics generally, 
the art of the possible. Only in certain countries can the churches arouse popular interest, 
and then only over certain questions.' Ibid,, p. 28, 

* 'The advisability of the churches correlating efforts with those of other faiths or of no 
fundamental faith in the struggle for standards and conditions rests upon considerations 
of prudence and convenience rather than of principle or conviction.' Ibid,, pp. 28-9, 


attempts to produce papers on specific international problems 
and especially on the significance of Soviet Russia for the 
Amsterdam background volume proved unsatisfactory; ulti- 
mately, a projected omnibus chapter called 'Antagonisms and 
Alignments' was jettisoned. 1 Six months before the Assembly, 
Professor Josef Hromadka told the Conference of National 
Ecumenical Study Executives that the Section IV Commission 
'had decided not to arrive at any synthesis which would be 
premature and futile' but proposed instead to put before the 
delegates analyses of the situation from two angles, the chapters 
of John Foster Dulles and himself. 2 The strain upon the Oikumene 
was aggravated by the endorsement by the World Council's 
Central Committee of the collective security action, under 
United Nations auspices, in Korea and was made public by the 
absence of "World Council collaborators from East Europe and 
China from the preparatory conferences for the Evanston 

Finally, it must be conceded that the hope of building a common 
international ethos on what Baron Van Asbeck considers 'the sole 
foundation of world society', 3 the universal acceptance of the 
theological basis of die World Council of Churches, supposes a 
successful campaign of world evangelism whose beginnings are 
not discernible. 

Nevertheless, the World Council's Second Assembly for the 
first time* addressed itself to the task of suggesting some general 
principles of international morality. It did so tentatively, noting 

1 With British humour the Chairman of Amsterdam's Section IV Study preparations 
explained to the final session of the World Council's Study Commission at Bossey on 
June 37, 1947, the difficulties encountered. His group, he noted, -was 'composed of six 
professors, four clergymen and some bits and pieces and it has, I think, succeeded in 
producing results just above the level of the ghastly'. Archives. 

8 The two great issues to be emphasized were declared to be 'power without moral 
or spiritual leadership' and 'nationalism expressing the desire of subjugated masses for 
autonomy'. However, 'the attempt to deal with nationalism as such has been postponed 
until after the Assembly as it was too vast to be dealt with in a short time'. Ibid. 

* 'viz., that God is the Lord of all nations; that Jesus Christ has been given full authority 
in heaven and on earth*. The Church and the International Disorder, p. 70. 

1 'The ecumenical conferences under review did not attempt to spell out the respon- 
sibilities of the churches for the development of a common ethos.' Richard M. Fagley, 
'Our Ecumenical Heritage in International Affairs", ER vr (October 1953), i, p. 62. 


that the task required 'sustained, study'. Convinced, however, 
that 'the world of nations desperately needs an international 
ethos to provide a sound groundwork for the development of 
international law and institutions', the Evanston Section on 
International Affairs advanced nine relevant principles as 
'considerations'. 1 

"Whatever the understanding of the bases of an international 
ethos held by the different member churches of the World 
Council, they agreed at Amsterdam on the importance of 'that 
common foundation of moral conviction without which any 
system of law will break down' and on their obligation to foster 
a common set of guiding principles. They acknowledged that 
they had a significant contribution to make in supporting a series 
of manifest needs in the international field. 2 These fall largely 
within the function of the United Nations and concerning that 
institution the "World Council pronouncements have been 
specific. While favouring a more comprehensive and more 

1 '(a) All power carries responsibility and all nations are trustees of power which should 
be used for the common good; (fe) All nations are subject to moral law, and should strive 
to abide by the accepted principles of international law, to develop this law, and to enforce 
it through common actions; (c) All nations should honour their pledged word and inter- 
national agreements into which they have entered; (?) No nation in an international dispute 
has the right to be sole judge in its own cause or to resort to war to advance its policies 
but should seek to settle disputes by direct negotiation or by submitting them to con- 
ciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement; (e) AH nations have a moral obligation to 
ensure universal security and to this end should support measures designed to deny victory 
to a declared aggressor; (f) All nations should recognize and safeguard the inherent 
dignity, worth and essential rights of the human person without distinction as to race, 
sex, language or religion; (g) Each nation should recognize the rights of every other 
nation, which observes such standards, to live by and proclaim, its own political and social 
beliefs, provided that it does not seek by coercion, threat, infiltration or deception to 
impose these on other nations; (/i) All nations should recognize an obligation to share their 
scientific and technical skills with peoples in less developed regions, and to help the victims 
of disaster in other lands; (i) All nations should strive to develop cordial relations with 
their neighbours, encourage friendly cultural and commercial dealings and join in 
creative international efforts for human welfare.' Evanston, p. 142. 

a 'They [the churches] should at present support immediate practical steps for fostering 
mutual understanding and goodwill among the nations, for promoting respect for 
international law and the establishment of the international institutions which are now 
possible. They should also support every effort to deal on a universal basis with the many 
specific questions of international concern which face mankind today, such as the use of 
atomic power, the multilateral reduction of armaments, and the provision of health services 
and food for all men.' Amsterdam, pp. 92-3. 

THE INTERNATIONAL ORDER 27! world organization, it insists on the full use of the 
existing instrument of international collaboration. 

Widespread disenchantment over the failure of the United 
Nations to fulfil the unrealistic hopes of many induced the 
Executive Committee of the CCIA to issue a Statement at the 
close of its meeting in August 1953. Acknowledging the handi- 
caps under which the UN is forced to operate the stubborn 
clinging to separate sovereignties, the abuse of the veto, the 
primacy of national and ideological interests the Statement was 
a strong endorsement of the world organization and its related 
agencies and a solemn appeal for its support and development. 
As a world forum where diverse cultures meet, as an instrument 
for the growth of international law, as a regulator of the common 
interests of the nations and a mechanism for peaceful settlement 
of disputes, 'these institutions offer now an effective means of 
developing conditions essential to the rule of law in the world', 
the Statement argued. 1 

The Second Assembly reaffirmed the World Council's previous 
endorsements of the United Nations as having made significant 
contributions to order and justice despite the critical post-war 
tensions which have divided the international community. 
The General Assembly's serving as a 'forum of world public 
opinion' on major international problems, the international 
standard furnished in the Universal Declaration of Human. 
Rights and the use of the Specialized Agencies as 'a centre for 
harmonizing the actions of States for human welfare', were listed 
as achievements. Continued growth of the United Nations was 
hoped for through more responsible use of present Charter pro- 
visions by members and by the evolution of powers inherent in 
the Charter or delegated to it by common consent. Consideration 
of the greater effectiveness of the UN Organization reminded 
the Assembly of the provision made for a periodical revision of 
the Charter. Should a conference for this purpose be convened, 
the Section believed it should try to determine the organic and 
structural requirements of the Organization 'for carrying out 

1 ER, vi (October 1953), i, p. 57. 


programmes dealing with universal, enforcible disarmament, 
human rights, greatly expanded technical assistance programmes 
and the more rapid development of self-government in colonial 

Obviously such expectations suppose not only the abolition 
of the rule of unanimity which the Soviets, for one, consider an 
essential of the Organization, but also effective powers to investi- 
gate and punish serious violations of human rights and national 
sovereignties; the use of these powers would undoubtedly mean 
war. The Section on International Affairs at Evanstoii had no 
recommendations on the question of the Great Power Veto' in 
the United Nations nor did it repeat earlier CCIA enthusiasm 
for Peace Observer Commissions. That meritorious mechanism 
for watching possible points of aggression, adopted by the 
General Assembly as part of its 'Uniting for Peace' Resolution 
on November 3, 1950, supposed the general acceptance of the 
United Nations as neutral. The arrangements to supervise the 
armistice concluded at Geneva in July 1954 and Thailand's 
subsequent withdrawal of its request for a Peace Observer team 
indicates that the supposition has small foundation. 

The weakness of the United Nations has resulted iti the 
formation of regional associations, notably the North Atlantic 
Treaty Organization, for common defence and the pitrsuit of 
mutual interests. Without identifying any of these groupings, 
the Evanston Section conceded them 'a valid place in a co- 
operative world order, despite [their] potential danger to inter- 
national peace and security'; certain provisions, chiefly their 
subordination to the UN, were added. 1 Whichever regional 
organizations do pass these tests are judged to strengthen the 
United Nations 'by reducing threats to the peace and by lessening 
the number of international questions thrust before the world 
forum'. The principle involved resembles what economists call 

1 It is required of icgional organizations that: '(a) They are clearly defensive in character 
and military actions are subject to collective decision; (b) They are subordinate to and 
reinforce the aims of the Charter of the United Nations; (c) They serve the genuine 
mutual interests and needs of the peoples of the region.' Evatiston, pp. 130-40, It is 
doubtful if- the Arab League was principally envisaged. 


tlie division of labour. The same principle probably accounts 
for the demand made by the Section for a larger respect in the 
United Nations for the principle of the 'sovereign' equality of 
States, great and small. 

In the CCIA statement, 'Christians Look at the United 
Nations', 1 the world organization was supported as offering 
'the best means for co-ordinating the activities of the nations for 
human welfare'. The phrase reflects an outlook which recalls 
the missionary concerns of the ecumenical constituency. 
Protestantism's focus on world evangelism, an important factor 
in the history of the collaboration of the churches, dictates almost 
instinctively the interest of the World Council of Churches in 
the political and social advancement of dependent people and the 
UN programmes of Technical Assistance. 

The struggle for political freedom in East Asia has been 
followed with particular attention by the World Council, for 
in this region are found most of the 'Younger Churches' which 
participate in the Ecumenical Movement. The Amsterdam 
Assembly declared itself against colonialism, against postpone- 
ment of progress towards self-government for subject peoples. 
The revolutionary ferment in Asia has been on the agenda in one 
form or another of every meeting of the World Council's Central 
Committee since its formation. Obviously the effect of com- 
munist domination in missionary areas is a source of anxiety to 
the Ecumenical Community. This eventuality, the World Council 
has continuously counselled, 2 is best overcome by an unequivocal 
recognition of the right to self-determination for subject peoples, 
the abandonment of all pretensions of racial superiority and the 
fostering of technically aided programmes of self-help to raise 
the standards of living in economically backward areas. The 
CCIA follows the activities of the UN Trusteeship Council but 
its present 'major concern' is with inter-governmental efforts to 
conquer disease, hunger and poverty. 

1 BR VT (October 1953), i, p. 57. 

a A positive programme of justice, the Central Committee stated at its 1950 meeting, 
is 'the most important means of rendering the world morally impregnable to totalitarian 
penetration 1 . 


Various studies have been made and graphs prepared to show 
the unequal conditions under which the world's population lives. 1 
All such statistics are, given the proportions of the problem, 
approximations. They are cold attempts to express the situation 
more imaginatively summarized in the remark: 'Two out of 
three of God's children go to bed hungry every night.' The facts 
present a moral challenge which the World Council proposes 
to press on its constituency. The CCIA Executive at its mid- 
summer meeting in 1951 did not hesitate to declare: 'Perhaps 
the chief task of Christians and Christian agencies is to help 
create and sustain the favourable moral climate necessary for 
sound technical assistance programmes.' The World Council's 
Central Committee meeting at Lucknow in January 1953 added 
a strong endorsement. 2 The CCIA sees such programmes as a 
positive strategy for peace. Its annual Reports indicate that, 
beginning with a statement on seven requirements for inter- 
national aid in economic and social self-development, this agency 
of the World Council has offered specific comment regularly 
on the developing UN Expanded Programme of Technical 
Assistance, calling particularly for better co-operation between 
governmental and non-governmental organizations at the field 
level. It is here, of course, that the co-operation of the missionaries 
with international institutions can be most effective. 

Such regular consultation maintained by the Executive 
Secretary of the CCIA with the UN Technical Assistance 
Programme is calculated to remind these international civil 

1 A widely distributed poster of die World Health Organization, indicates contrasting 
conditions, thus: 'Only one-fifth of the people of the world live in developed areas. , . . 
Average annual income $500 each. . . , Expectation of life 63 years. . . . two- thirds of 
the people of the world live in underdeveloped areas. . . . Average annual income $50 
each. . . . Expectation of life 30 years.' An International Labour Organization poster 
notes as having a national income per head under $50 annually in 1949 Burma, China, 
Ecuador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, South Korea, Liberia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, 
Thailand, Yemen; US average annual per capita income for the same year f 1,500. 

2 'The Churches in the more developed countries must xtrge their peoples and govern- 
ments to do everything possible to strengthen programmes of technical assistance, without 
which such efforts [to obtain a standard of living which meets basic human needs and to 
establish a more just social and economic order] in Asia cannot succeed.' Lucknow 
Minutes, p. 73. 


servants of the existence and activities of these volunteers who are 
already on hand in the economically backward areas of the 
world. In the refugee field, at least, international organizations 
soon learned of the importance of the co-operation of private 
groups, particularly those under religious auspices. Even before 
its formal establishment the World Council of Churches was 
grappling with the spiritual and material problems of those 
uprooted by the war. Its interest has not abated. Through the 
CCIA it has supported moves to broaden the mandate of the 
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to make permanent the 
UN International Children's Emergency Fund, to resettle and 
reintegrate those made homeless by the war in Palestine and to 
make possible civilian relief assistance in inter-governmental 
plans for Korean reconstruction. Through its Department of 
Inter-Church Aid and Service to Refugees, it has continued to 
find new homes for the uprooted. The Director General of the 
Inter-Governmental Committee for European Migration told 
the Seventh Session of that international body in April 1954 that 
of the 30,863 persons resettled by Voluntary Agencies the previous 
year, 42 per cent owed their chances for a new beginning in 
happier surroundings to the World Council of Churches and its 
closely allied associate, the Lutheran World Federation. The 
World Council of Churches, whose Central Committee has 
called the refugee problem 'a judgment upon our whole society', 
has not contented itself with merely piously deploring this 
manifestation of international disorder. 

If on economic and social questions the mind of the World 
Council is found imprecise and reluctant to assay concrete 
institutions, in international affairs it is prepared to declare, 
in the words of Amsterdam's Section. IV, 'International law 
clearly requires international institutions for its effectiveness.' 
The World Council of Churches, through the Commission 
of die Churches on International Affairs, seeks positively to 
influence the direction and decisions of existing international 
institutions and has no hesitation in participating in their 


3. Human Rights 

'An essential element in a better international order is freedom 
of religion.' 1 This declaration of the Oxford Conference of 1937 
is a summary expression of a permanent preoccupation of the 
Ecumenical Community; it was reaffirmed by the Amsterdam 
Assembly in its 'Declaration on Religious Liberty'. 2 Religious 
freedom was, moreover, recognized as finding its place among 
fundamental rights. On this issue there was none of the in- 
definiteness which characterized Section Ill's Report on economic 
and social questions. 'It is for the State,' Section IV asserted, 'to 
embody these rights in its own legal system and to ensure their 
observance in practice.' 3 The First Assembly went further in 
calling upon its constituent members 'to press for the adoption of 
an International Bill of Human Rights making provision for the 
recognition, and national and international enforcement, of all 
the essential freedoms of man, whether personal, political or 
social'. 4 Evanston called for the protection of 'God-given rights 
which are his Will for all men'. 6 

"Whatever the differing theological views current in ecumenical 
circles on the origin and nature of the State and its role in human 
society, the World Council of Churches is clearly on record as 
assigning to the organized political authority the duty of con- 
demning violations of human rights and of guaranteeing religious 
liberty. It believes, furthermore, that action by the international 
community should be invoked to enforce the protection of 
fundamental freedoms. 

In widening the scope of its interests beyond the issue of 
religious liberty so as to include all fundamental freedoms, the 
World Council of Churches was undoubtedly encouraged by the 
successful effort of religious leaders to have the new world 

1 Oxford, p. 184. 

8 Amsterdam, p. 97. Amsterdam changed Oxford's 'a better international order 1 to 
read 'a good international order" to indicate, perhaps, that in practical political affairs the 
desirable 'better' is the enemy of the achievable 'good'. 

3 Ibid., p. 93. * Ibid,, p. pd. 

B Evanston, p. 140. The call was judged 'all the more insistent in, this age when, in 
various parts of the world, totalitarianism based on ideologies sometimes atheistic and 
sometimes under the guise of religion oppresses the freedom of ineii and of institutions'. 


organization, born of the war-time collaboration of the United 
Nations, include a formal recognition of human rights and a 
Commission charged to concern itself with their observance. 
Dr. O. Frederick Nolde, Director of the CCIA and the World 
Council's specialist on questions of human rights, played a by 
no means unimportant role in this phase of the San Francisco 
Conference of 1945. 1 

The Amsterdam Assembly summarized the requirements of 
freedom of religion and conscience, which had been enumerated 
by the Oxford Conference of the Universal Christian Council 
for Life and Work of I937 2 and the World Meeting of the 
International Missionary Council, held at Madras in ipsS. 3 
'The rights of all men to hold and change their faith, to express 
it in worship and practice, to teach and persuade others, and to 
decide on the religious education of their children' were listed 
as primary characteristics of genuine religious freedom. The 
Report of Section IV immediately indicated its awareness of 
other human rights, urging the churches to press also Tor freedom 
of speech and expression, of association and assembly, the 
rights of the family, of freedom from arbitrary arrest, as well 
as all those other rights which the true freedom of man 
requires'. The expulsion of minorities was denounced, and en- 
forced segregation opposed. The concreteness of language 
stands in marked contrast to the indefrniteness of the Report of 
the Section on Social Questions which condemned merely 'any 
denial to man of an opportunity to participate in the shaping 
of society', without indicating whether this implied either 
the right of private property or die right to join a labour 

Since Amsterdam the efforts to formulate human rights have 

1 The Private Papers of Senator Vandenkurg supply warrant for Dr. Nolde's claim that 
'an international Christian, influence played a determining part in achieving the more 
extensive provisions for human rights and fundamental freedoms which ultimately found 
their way into the Charter'. The Church and the International Disorder, p, 151, where some 
of the details are recounted, 

a Oxford, pp. 84-5. 

8 The World Mission of the Church (London: International Missionary Council, 1938), 
pp. 116-17. 


become less prominent in World Council publications. The 
Questions for Discussion appended to the popular pamphlet 
prepared for the Evanston Assembly's consideration of Inter- 
national Affairs, for example, mentions fundamental freedoms 
only in passing, in connexion with the elements essential to the 
growth of an international ethos. The adoption by the UN 
General Assembly on December 10, 1948, of the Universal 
Declaration of Human Rights is clearly felt to have satisfactorily 
proclaimed the ideals of the Ecumenical Community. 1 Accepting 
the legal clothing of human rights, the World Council works 
for their recognition and application. In the phrasing of Article 18 
of the UN Declaration on religious liberty the Director of the 
CCIA had collaborated, and the results won the support of that 
organization's Executive Committee which encouraged its 
constituency 'by processes of education and public opinion to 
seek to make the provisions of the Declaration effective in 
constitutions, in domestic laws, in court decisions and generally 
in practice'. Church leaders were urged to promote observance 
of Human Rights Day. 

The announcement by the United States Government that, 
under the present circumstances, it would not ratify the two 
projected Covenants on Human Rights rather effectively 
adjourned hopes of translating the Declaration into treaty form, 
to be sure. The Director of the CCIA as a consultant had offered 
suggestions on the articles on religious liberty and religious 
education in the drafts of the Covenants which had received 
the general approval of the CCIA Executive in July 1952, The 
realities of the international situation, however, make the 
process of codifying rights, in the absence of any machinery 
to enforce their observance, seem fruitless. In the interest of 
human rights the World Council of Churches' General 
Secretary appeared before the UN Special Commission on 
Prisoners of War, an international effort doomed to failure in 

1 However, the Foreign Department of EKiD, whose chief, Dr. Martin Niemdller, 
is a member of the World Council's Central Committee, wants any Covenant on Human 
Rights to state explicitly that human rights are grounded in God's grace and that it is for 
secular authorities to recognize and protect them. 


the absence of minimal co-operation by the Soviet Union. The 
work of the UN ad hoc Committee on Forced Labour, on the 
other hand, did not win the attention of the World Council 
or of the CCIA. 

The Amsterdam pronouncement on religious liberty echoes 
an Anglo-Saxon accent. The overall approach of the Commission 
of the Churches on International Affairs on the question of human 
rights reveals especially the heritage of the political philosophy 
and experience of the Natural Law tradition. That is to say, 
liberty is claimed for religious groups in. virtue of fundamental 
human rights possessed by the individual members as persons 
irrespective of their confessional allegiance. The World Council's 
constituency includes, of course, those who base human rights on 
the fact of an individual's faith as a Christian. For others the 
question of rights in the political order is of small interest, since 
the Church is concerned not with the menace of human ideologies 
but with the protection of the purity of doctrinal teaching and the 
independence of its ecclesiastical administration. Other opinion 
would vindicate religious liberty by appealing to the mission of 
the Church of Christ which gives it an absolute right to evangelize 
all men and a consequent claim on the protection of the State to 
guarantee that liberty of preaching. In a comprehensive mono- 
graph contributed to the Amsterdam Assembly Volume on 
International Affairs, Dr. O. Frederick Nolde observed: 'At the 
present time, there is immediate and urgent need for the 
(development of the Christian view on human rights in terms 
which will apply to all men and which can be used in representa- 
tions to national and international political authorities.' 1 The 
opportunity of collaborating with efforts to draft an International 
Bill of Rights, Dr. Nolde remarked, could not and should not be 
postponed pending the resolution of the theological debate on 
the basis of fundamental freedoms. Besides, as the Evanston 
Survey explained, the CCIA is not a theological commission. 2 

1 'Freedom of Religion and Related Human Rights' in The Church and the International 
Disorder, p. 148. 

8 Where, in the "World Council framework, the bases of human rights would be 
discussed is not indicated. Once again, the problem raises the question of an 'ethic of 


Its Director, therefore, in his analysis of human rights has had 
recourse to what he terms the juridical' considerations; in his 
dealings with relevant international bodies he has emphasized 
the functional approach. 

Another aspect of the general topic of religious liberty, namely 
the question of die relations of the Church with die State, has 
not been discussed in World Council debates. Several members 
of the Council, it may be noted, are the Established Churches 
in their respective countries. With a telling quotation from 
Calvin, Adolf Keller argues: 'The Continental Reformation 
thought, therefore, not of a disestablished Church, but of the 
closest co-operation between State and Church, both being 
Divine orders in a fallen world to help the Christians to fulfil 
God's will.' 1 The Anglican Archbishop of York has more 
recendy presented the case for an Established Church, asserting 
that the State 'has responsibility for the spiritual and moral 
welfare of its people, but as it cannot discharge this duty by itself, 
it should dierefore hand it over to a Church'. 2 On the other hand, 
an American delegate to the World Council's Faith and Order 
meeting at Lund publicly rejected, as being opposed to political 
freedom and biblical theology, the views of Swedish theologians, 
headed by Anders Nygren, on a State Church. 3 The question 
is a knotty one, manifesting clearly the influence of political and 
social factors in theological traditions. Its appositeness in any 
discussion on religious liberty was shown in the announcement 

inspiration' versus an 'ethic of ends', reason versus the Bible alone as a source of social 
philosophy, human nature versus divine election as the pomt of departure for a system of 
rights and duties in the political order. 

1 Church and State on the European Continent, p. 166. 

8 Cyril Garbett, Church and State in England, p. 24. 

8 Dr. Winfred E. Garrison was shocked at those who considered the thesis of the 
symposium This is the Church, that the entire population of a country is to be included 
within the State Church 'regardless of personal faith, repentance or commitment, as 
perfectly in harmony with the New Testament concept of die Church and with a sound 
theology of the Church'. Cf. The Third World Conference on Faith and Order, Lund, 1952, 
p. 187, Dr. Garrison should surely have heard of the settlement of the Peace of Augsburg 
'jus reformandi, ubi unus dominus, ibi sit una religio' if he had never come upon the 
definition of Bishop Nygren's predecessor in the see of Lund, Eduard R,odke: 'The Swedish 
people as a whole, considered from a religious angle, is the Swedish Church.' Quoted in 
Keller's Church and State on the European Continent, p. 169. 


of the Greek Evangelical Cliurcli that it would not attend, the 
Evanston Assembly of the "World Council because it refused 
to associate in an ecumenical gathering with a member church, 
the Church of Greece, which, it alleged, was persecuting the 
Protestant minority of 6,000 in that country. The Church of 
Greece is an Established Church, the Greek Constitution providing 
for the union of Church and State. Ultimately through the 
mediation of the CCIA, the Synod of the Evangelical Church in 
Greece decided to send two delegates to the Second Assembly; 
the Church of Greece, for its part, announced it would send the 
Royal Chaplain and ten laymen, professors from the universities 
of Athens and Salonika, three Metropolitans who had previously 
been named being retained 'by pressure of official duties'. 

There is a danger, as the CCIA undoubtedly realizes, that the 
promulgating of declarations of human rights, satisfying though 
the process may be to a rooted instinct for justice, may tend to 
blur the stubborn fact that their observance is conditioned by the 
structure and the historical evolution of any given society. 'The 
relativities of liberty depend in great part on. the circumstances of 
the social reality and the degree of political maturity of a nation,' 
wrote Professor Claude Du Pasquier of the University of 
Neuchltel in a symposium on the Swiss Constitution and civic 
rights. 1 The social realities of India are invoked to justify the 
Government's decision to interdict any increase of Christian 
missionaries entering that country, despite the liberty of religion 
clause in the Indian Constitution. It is certainly not a deficiency 
of political maturity among die Swiss but a differing estimate of 
the demands of public order that explains the judgment of the 
Confederation's Federal Tribunal that the propaganda of the 
Jehovah Witnesses exceeded the legal limit of freedom, of con- 
science and belief. The United States Supreme Court, on the 
other hand, has on several occasions struck down all police 
limitations on the activities of this aggressive sect, invoking the 
freedom, of speech and assembly guarantees of the American 

1 Xa LibertS et le Droit Suisse', in Die Freiheit des Burgers im Schmizerischen Recht, 
p. 12. 


Constitution rather than the religious liberty provisions. The 
need of information on, as well as of understanding of, the pattern 
of society is illustrated by the consultations reported in the Evan- 
ston Survey as being in progress 'with a view to establishing the 
facts regarding charges of violations of human rights in Colombia'. 1 
In any case, as the Evanston Section on International Affairs 
noted: 'To build a strong defence of human rights requires 
vigorous, broad and persistent educational efforts. Christian 
education can make an important contribution here.' 2 

4. Problems of Practical Action 

The common attitude of the Ecumenical Community, the 
general principles which guide its public pronouncements, were 
summarized in seven paragraphs in the statement, Christians Stand 
for Peace, issued by the Executive Committee of the CCIA at its 
Annual Meeting in 1951. Peace and justice were declared the twin 
goals to be prized and pursued, but not a peace purchased at the 
price of tyranny nor a justice achieved by means of war. These 
objectives, it was pointed out, suppose mutual trust between 
governments; they require international organs expressing the 
rule of law and order. The United Nations and its agencies 
represents at present the best means to develop this world com- 
munity, it was held. General assistance by the wealthier to the 
poorer nations in their economic and social development, a 
common sharing of the responsibility for refugees and a respect 
for the rights of the individual because of his dignity as a child 

1 CHTC, p. 35. In its only specific condemnation of religious persecution, the Central 
Committee of the World Council of Churches at its Lucknow meeting protested against 
the violation of basic rights of Evangelical Christians in Colombia. The protest repeated 
that of the Executive Committee of the CCIA mjuly 1952. In its Annual Report for the 
same year, one notes: 'Every effort is made to determine the extent to which persecutions 
are attributable on the one hand to political conditions in Colombia and on the other to 
discrimination against the Protestant minority.' p. 30. The Annual Report for 1953-4 
reveals: 'The CCIA has also followed with concern developments affecting religious 
liberty in a number of other countries, including Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German 
Democratic Republic, Italy and Spain.' p. 35. Furthermore: 'Regret has been expressed 
that the governments of Bulgaria, Hungary and Rumania have refused to co-operate in 
the examination of charges against them of suppression of human rights contrary to the 
terms of the Peace Treaties.' CHTC, p. 33. 

2 Evanston, p. 141. 


of God were claimed to be dictated by the goals of peace and 
justice which oblige Christians to put their loyalty to their 
common Lord above all other loyalties. 

The implementation of these principles is the specific task of 
the CCIA in association with twenty-one National Commissions 
011 International Affairs. In the selection of the particular issues 
engaging the attention of these ecumenical agencies, experience 
has shaped certain necessary criteria. As listed for the delegates 
in the Evanston Survey volume these are: (i) Is the problem 
urgent? (2) Is there a clear Christian concern about it? (3) Is 
there a substantial consensus of world-wide Christian opinion 
oil the line to be followed? (4) Have those who have to handle 
the problem been able to acquire a real competence in it? (5) Is 
there a reasonable possibility that a contribution may be effective, 
or an over-riding imperative for Christian witness? 

The necessity of 'a substantial consensus of world-wide Christian 
opinion on the line to be followed' is demanded by the very 
nature of the World Council of Churches which is only an 
instrument of die churches composing it. Such a necessity 
imposes certain inhibitions in the present circumstances of 
international politics. For opinion within the World Council is 
divided on the issues and even on the values involved in the 
current world tensions, not to speak of the concrete tactics required 
to deal with concrete manifestations of that tension. 1 As a result, 
the Survey prepared for the Evanston delegates listed with 
disconcerting imprecision two major goals of policy claiming 

1 A difference of opinion, involving perhaps the two best-known personalities in 
the Ecumenical Movement, on a crucial point of international relations is illustrated by 
this quotation from Reinhold Niebuhr: 'One hopes that the lessons of the Berlin Con- 
ference [of February 1954] will penetrate the illusions of Pastor Niemoller and his followers 
who have been engaged in some very fantastic political speculation prompted by the 
hatred of a Catholic regime at Bonn and presumably sanctified by Protestant theology.' 
Christianity and Crisis XIV (February 22, 1954), 2, p. u. Professor John. A. Mackay, 
President of the International Missionary Council, co-sponsor (with the World Council 
of Churches) of the CCIA, declared in 1953 that the only thing more dangerous than 
communism was anti-communism. The World Council constituency would probably 
be divided on that judgment of a member of its Central Committee. Certainly there is a 
marked difference of judgment within the small World Council inspired Committee on 
the Christian Responsibility for European Co-operation as represented by Andr6 Philip 
of France and Gustav Heinemann of Germany, 


'immediate attention'. These goals are: 'to oppose the extension 
of tyranny and to restrain tendencies towards a "preventive" war'. 1 
The location and springs and forms of the tyranny whose exten- 
sion must be opposed were unidentified. The evidence of 
tendencies towards a preventive war was not indicated. 2 Nor was 
any description supplied of the forces fostering such tendencies. 

To a degree not easily ascertainable, the positions on inter- 
national affairs adopted by the World Council of Churches are 
influenced by its declared purposes and by its understanding of its 
own nature. As a fellowship of churches from different lands, 
composed of people subjected inevitably to different historical 
experiences, national aspirations and contemporary ideological 
pressures, it will be conscious of the diversity of opinion, political 
as well as theological, in its membership. As the organized 
expression of a common desire for an all-inclusive unity of the 
churches, it will be mindful of the tensions jeopardizing its hopes 
for ultimate ecclesiastical universality and the pressure imperilling 
even present collaboration. Writing on 'The Task and Attitude 
of the Church' in the Amsterdam Assembly volume, Baron F. M, 
Van Asbeck, President of the CCIA, explained: 'That new reality, 
the ecumenical fellowship, compels us to reconsider and re-tliink 
international relations.' 3 

hi addition to the constitutional limitations interdicting any 
action not approved by all the member churches, the shapers of 
World Council policy cannot ignore strategic considerations. 4 

* CHTC, p. 47- 

2 A survey of US opinion, compiled at the same time as the prc-Evanstou brochure 
was being edited, revealed that 6 per cent (of the 3,502 persons interviewed) were 
prepared to endorse a war with the Soviet Union, 4 per cent favouring a policy of 
appeasement with a unilateral abandonment of the armament programme, C 
'American Attitudes on World Organization', Public Opinion Quarterly xvil (Winter 
1953-4), 4- 

3 The Church and the International Disorder, p. 47. The President of the World Council 
Agency noted further: 'In the words "the Church" we express our firm belief in a new 
reality, which is taking form and substance m the efforts of die different churches to reach, 
through all divergencies of opinions and attitudes, theological and ethical, a consensus 
concerning the central and vital problems of the present.' Ibid. 

4 In the only instance in the history of the Ecumenical Movement when the foreign 
policy of a specific nation was condemned, the Evanston Assembly accused the United 
States of strengthening reactionary political groups and weakening the forces of healthy 


To be specific, tliey cannot forget that many Orthodox churches, 
following the lead of the Moscow Patriarchate, have stood aloof 
from the Ecumenical Movement, choosing to consider the 
World Council as an instrument of Western political interests. 
The associates of the World Council in East Europe undoubtedly 
believe that tendencies towards a preventive war are endemic in 
the United States: Bishop Albert Bereczky of Hungary endorsed 
the Soviet accusations in a protest charging the UN with 
'bacteriological warfare in Korea'. On the other hand, the CCIA 
was obliged to issue a disclaimer against the misleading use of a 
quotation from the World Council's Central Committee 
appearing in the Bulletin of the World Peace Council. Indeed, 
as a result of the diverse reactions to the Toronto approval of 
UN intervention in Korea, Sir Kenneth Grubb, Chairman of the 
CCIA, opined that the first task of the World Council was to 
maintain its membership, not lose it by political stands. It is not 
the mission of the churches, he believed, to put themselves 
forward when a conflict has broken out but to interest themselves 
opportunely in menacing situations and to ponder and clarify 
preventive measures that will protect peace. 1 

More than most representatives of religious groups, the officials 
of the CCIA have cause to realize that the combined influence 

social reform in East Asia. Cf. Evanstott, p. 125. During the discussion of the Report at a 
plenary meeting, a delegate took exception to the passage. His protest was put to a vote 
and defeated, the Chairman explaining that 'die Section considered the matter to be of 
great importance in Asia'. Ibid., p. 130. 

1 'The Responsibilities of the Churches in Polities', ER m (January 1951), 2, p. 115. 
This issue of the Ecumenical Review offers several reactions to the "World Council's stand. 
on the UN action in Korea. The reluctance of the World Council to adopt positions likely 
to have a divisive effect on its membership is understandable. Endeavouring to avoid any 
action jeopardizing its membership, however, carries the risk of neglecting an issue which 
many think of substantial importance for a stable international order, the question of 
human rights and religious freedom in East Europe. Thus, the second-ranking prelate of 
Sir Kenneth's own Church, Dr. Cyril Foster Garbctt, addressing the Convocation of his 
Province of York on May 7, 1953 , called for a UN investigation of the anti-church, 
policies in communist countries. In. the opinion of His Grace of York, the opposing 
political and economic systems of East and West will continue to face one another for an 
indefinite period, their contradictions not necessarily standing in the way of peace. 
'Religious persecution,' on the other hand, Dr. Garbett declared, 'is so detestable that, 
while it continues, it must be a fatal obstacle to good xraderstanding between the 
democracies and the persecuting States.' 


of the churches in international affairs is conditioned by their 
separate strength in the different countries. For it is with the 
functionaries of international organizations and with national 
political leaders that they must deal in explaining the point of 
view of the Ecumenical Community. And while the assistance 
of religious bodies is sought in caring for refugees and the counsel 
of experienced leaders is accepted in phrasing principles of human 
rights, the influence of the churches on issues involved in the basic 
power struggle being played on the world's stage today depends 
on the strength of public opinion behind the positions taken by 
spokesmen for the organized Ecumenical Movement. Stalin was 
more outspoken but not necessarily more cynical than the average 
contemporary political leader in inquiring about the number 
of divisions a religious leader possessed. 

The question may be asked whether the Second Assembly 
provided helpful suggestions for achieving what one of its 
Preparatory Commissions termed 'two major goals of policy' 
blocking the extension of tyranny and restrakdng a preventive 
war. Surely the demand for internationally controlled dis- 
armament 1 and the renunciation of aggressive or subversive acts 
in the Evanston 'Appeal' would be universally acknowledged 
as the basis for any possible and permanent peaceful coexistence 
between nations. The cessation of hostile propaganda is certainly 
necessary for a climate of peace. The possibility of publicly 
criticizing the government and of peacefully practising one's 
religion are assuredly tests of freedom in any political community 
based on justice. Visits of ecclesiastics, supposing that they are 
not political agents, are calculated to promote mutual under- 
standing between peoples. Aid to underdeveloped countries 
is at once an obligation of Christian charity and a policy 
calculated to ameliorate revolutionary unrest. The realization of 
all of these suggestions is indeed a consummation devoutly to 
be wished. 

1 Time alone will tell whether Raymond Aron was more knowledgeable or more 
cynical when he wrote: 'La recherche d'une convention Internationale sur la limitation 
des armements est une distraction innocente pour les polytechniciens ou avocats en 
disponibilite? Le Figaro, November 4, 1954, p. l<5. 


Progress along some of these lilies is not impossible. In any 
case the World Council is confident that it has made its contri- 
bution towards a better international order. Closing its Survey 
of recent activities Preparatory Commission IV of the Evanston 
Assembly remarked: 'The road that has been traversed should 
provide sonic additional perspective of humility, courage, and 
hope as the road ahead is undertaken.' 



THE General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, 
Dr. W. A. Visser 't Hooft, has described the Council as by nature 
having a 'pioneering programme', seeking to find a 'third way' 
that cuts across easily accepted dichotomies and deadlocks. 1 
The concept is important for an understanding of the nature of 
its judgments on contemporary society. 

i. Ecumenidsm as a 'Third Way' 

Ecumenicism by definition, Dr. 't Hooft indicated, transcends 
narrow denominationalism while prizing the peculiar heritage of 
its component ecclesiastical traditions and appreciating the distinct 
contributions each communion brings to the corporate whole. 
As the agent and the expression of the Ecumenical Community, 
the World Council has likened itself to a wheel in which the 
whole 'has value and importance over and above that of its parts'. 2 
The World Council, it will be recalled, denies that it is the Church 
but conceives of itself as more than a federation of churches. It 
considers itself an ecclesiological Third Way in progress towards 
ultimate definition whose lineaments are not yet clearly seen. 

Similarly, in the realm of social thought the World Council 
favours a Third Way, a position transcending, as Dr. J t Hooft 
pointed out, the dichotomies of capitalism versus other social 
systems and a mode of approach to international affairs that will 
clarify attitudes to Marxism as over against a purely sterile 
anti-communism. Convinced of 'the one simple idea that social 

1 The Ecumenical Courier, 12 (November-December 1953), 6", p. I. 

2 In an information leaflet, 'Tell Us About the World Council of Churches'. 


and economic systems are relative to time and place', the World 
Council seeks new and creative solutions whose ultimate formula- 
tion will merit the title of the Responsible Society, an ideal social 
organization whose concrete lineaments are not yet clearly known. 
In the elaboration of its social critique, moreover, it makes 
provision for the ethical insights deriving from different theological 
traditions and for the practical concerns of its members, since the 
World Council has also likened itself to a family whose 'members 
have a common loyalty and heritage, but they are not all alike 
and there is no reason to expect them to be'. It will be normal, 
then, that 'the many churches and nationalities each bring to the 
Ecumenical Movement their own historic, academic and spiritual 
gifts', not least in evaluating social questions and issues in the 
realm of international affairs. 

Such an approach will not be lacking in negations, for the 
Third Way is a rejection of existing categories, a disavowal of 
choice between what are represented as current alternatives of 
social organization. It will be marked, too, by a certain, tentative- 
ness, since social and economic systems are deemed relative and 
because the method of inquiry must make allowance for points 
of view within the ecumenical family. 

The approach produces on occasion statements whose in- 
dcflniteness has drawn the reproach of uncertainty. 1 Indeed the 
very aspiration to find a Third Way drew the suggestion of 
intellectual escapism or of timorousncss. 2 Such an indictment 

* Thus Fortune, the magazine of the American business community, observed in its 
comment on Amsterdam's Report on Social Questions: "The fact that these questions 
[concerning the theological implications of economic actions] are not sharply posed and 
not fully answered suggests that the problem of whether the state or the individual is the 
agent of social goodness (as well as of social evil) is still a matter of religious quandary.' 
'The Church Speaks to Business', xxxvm (December 1948), p. 122. 

* The Fortune editorial continued: 'furthermore, the attempt of Amsterdam, to find a 
middle ground between the extremes of Communism and Capitalism and the attempt 
of the Federal Council report ["Christianity and the Economic Order"] to find a middle 
ground between increased free enterprise and increased social control suggest that church- 
men may be applying rather the law of compromise than the searing light of Truth. 
Are compromises, however loving they may be, the essence of Christianity?' As the 
Fortune writer should have remembered, compromises may be the essence of political 
wisdom in the practice of the celebrated 'art of the possible'. It was not absolute moral 
standards but a tolerable social order which was being discussed. 


fails to recognize the intrinsic limitations of the ecumenical 
discourse. It ignorantly or short-sightedly refuses to acknowledge 
the importance of the specific contribution of the World Council's 
critique of the social order. 

2. Inherent Difficulties 

The difficulties of the ecumenical discourse on social topics 
are ample and obvious. Let us review some that this study has 

I. It is essential to recall that the World Council of Churches is, 
by definition, 'a fellowship of churches', an instrument enabling 
its members to consult together and give utterance to common 
convictions on the economic order and international affairs. It 
has no voice independent of that of its members. Its range of 
pronouncements, then, will be coextensive with the opinions 
winning the acceptance of its entire membership. Within that 
membership will be churches of different theological traditions, 
whose communicants are subject to different national loyalties, 
exposed to different social experiences, cultural prejudices and 
possibly political pressures. 

Independence of judgment, freedom to dissent arc more than 
charter rights of the member churches of the World Council; 
they are of the very genius of its constituent communions. 
F. Ernest Johnson, long-time Director of the Department of 
Research and Survey of the Federal Council of the Churches of 
Christ in. the United States, has written: 'It is of the essence of the 
Protestant faith that the individual conscience is supreme. On 
all matters of political and social policy this means that die church 
may furnish guidance but no directives.' 1 Such freedom, as has 
been noted, is a consequence of the mode of apprehending moral 
truth: the individual discovering his present duty always in 
concrete circumstances by his personal contact with God's word. 
Such an approach explains undoubtedly the absence of any agreed 
definition of such terms as justice', 'the State*, 'human rights' in 

1 'Protestant Social Policy', The Nation, 177 (July 25, 1953), 4, p. 66. 


World Council documents, although ecumenical discussions over 
the years invariably include the suggestion that agreement should 
be reached on the meaning of basic terms. 

2. As an organization, the World Council is in a certain sense 
the culmination of a tradition. It is, in another sense, committed 
to establish a tradition, that of the permanent and official collabora- 
tion of many churches of differing traditions. Such a task imposes 
restraints in making pronouncements on international situations 
and social questions, restraints over and above the restrictions 
imposed by the Constitution of the World Council. The 
Council's Executive Committee adverted to these practical con- 
siderations in a letter to the member churches after the crisis 
provoked by the endorsement of UN intervention in Korea. 1 
The determination of the member churches 'to stay together' 
docs not annul differences of opinion 2 nor obviate organizational 

3 . The conviction that the ecumenical reality, organizationally 
represented by the World Council of Churches, is of a different 
order of existence from that of particular cultures and historical 
social systems explains further the refusal of the Council to 
identify Christianity with any political grouping or economic 
order. Such a conviction of the transcendence of religion, 

1 'The chief task of the "World Council is to maintain and develop the fellowship 
between the Christian Churches. But we recognize that the World Council has also the 
important task of giving concrete witness to the Lordship of Christ and to the implications 
of His Lordship for national and international life. We were all the time conscious of these 
two obligations which, things being as they are, often enter into conflict.' ER. m (April 
*9Si). 3, P- a??- 

a At a meeting of the Australian Committee for the World Council, Anglican Bishop 
Ernest H. Burgmann termed John Foster Dulles, then a member of the Commission of 
the Churches on International Affairs sponsored by the World Council, 'a dangerous man'. 
The bishop conceded that 'probably Dulles is an honest Christian but we don't want to 
commit the World Council to anything he does. Nor should we commit this body to 
anything in the way of American international politics or we will get our fingers burned.' 
At the time Mr. Dulles was arranging the Japanese Peace Treaty which the Axistralian 
Government duly signed. In a special 'message to the nation* the meeting which the Bishop 
had addressed called for the admission of communist China to the United Nations 
'because international justice demands such a step'. Cited in Christianity and Crisis xi 
(March 19, 1951), 4, p. 32. Differences of opinion on the obligations of international 
justice are obviously not impossible between. Christians or even between segments of the 
World Council constituency. Mr. Dulles, of course, as an American diplomat, never 
pretended to represent World Council opinion. 


however, risks nullifying in practice the ecumenical effort to 
remake the Temporal City. When it is argued, as for example at 
the Central Committee's Chichester Meeting, that the Church 
should not make judgments on economic systems, the policy of 
abstraction from political situations has stultifying implications. 
For it would logically connote an ethical negativism in. the face 
of concrete problems of social justice and an attitude of abandon- 
ment, under the cloak of the transcendence of religion, an 
attitude belying the obligation of social responsibility which the 
World Council seeks to inculcate. 

The uncertainty as to the nature of the World Council itself 
introduces a complication at this point which would seem to 
explain, indirectly at least, its hesitation to judge concrete 
situations. That the Christian religion is not tied to any given 
civilization is demonstrated by both theology and history: it has 
survived the passing of established political structures and the 
collapse of various systems of social organization; it has been at 
home in widely different cultures. 1 But what is the relation 
between the two realities, 'the Christian, religion' and 'the World 
Council of Churches', in this connexion? 

Is 'the Christian religion' to be thought of primarily as a 
message, a body of truth of divine origin, and 'die World Council 
of Churches' to be here considered as the sum total of ecumenical 
but still human appraisals of social problems in whose formulation 
constant care must be exercised to keep the gospel message free 
from political interpretations? This explanation of the World 
Council's hesitation to deal with concrete social situations 
contrasts the content of the gospel message with the defective 
human understanding of any social problem and emphasizes the 
importance of preserving the purity and integrity of 'die Christian 
religion' understood as a body of superior trudi. Or is 'the World 

1 Because the Christian religion cannot be identified with any political categories or 
cultural forms, it does not follow that its institutions are uninfluenced by political changes 
nor that the fate of Christians is unaffected by social revolutions, Hunneric, King of the 
Vandals, exiled 4.6*4 bishops from North Africa. After the Arab invasion which followed, 
three bishops could not be found in the eleventh century to consecrate an episcopal 


Council' to be thought of as a federation of churches, a form of 
ecclesiastical association, and 'the Christian religion' considered 
as the mission of the constituent communions, a ministry function- 
ing in time which must not be compromised by identification 
with any given political or economic order? Such a distinction 
emphasizes die autonomy of the member churches in order to 
explain the reluctance of the World Council to make very 
precise pronouncements 011 concrete issues. Or is 'the World 
Council of Churches' an as yet undefined entity, to be equated 
with 'the Christian religion' itself as signifying the Christian 
community; Such a conception of its essential nature would 
certainly urge the World Council to guard its institutional 
entity 1 free of suspicion of pertaining to any particular political 
grouping and any definite system of economic organization; 
it would explain also the imprecision of its pronouncements, 
the tentativeness of the Third Way in social analysis and 
prescription. These possibilities recall the discussion in the 
chapter, 'The Nature and Authority of the World Council of 

It must not be forgotten, in any event, that while the Christian 
religion, as a divine revelation, neither derives from nor is tied 
to any civilization, the Christian, as an individual living in time 
and space, has obligations determined by his social situation. 
His faith does not exempt him from his civic duties but should, 
on the contrary, supply him with motives for their loyal and 
intelligent fulfilment. These call for the exercise of practical 
prudence estimating possibilities and proposals in the perspective 
of the Christian vision of man. A citizen who is a Christian has, 
for example, no special knowledge from his faith on how the 
almost universal housing shortage is to be solved, jior has he a 
claim on religious authorities for a legislative blue-print to 
remedy the situation. In the opinion of Dr. Patijn, the Christian 
citizen is entitled to 'pastoral guidance'. In the judgment of 
Archbishop Temple he needs a coherent social ethic enabling 

1 Some of the member churches of the Council, to be sure, do not hold that the 
Christian Message necessarily implies a definite institution to promulgate it. 


him to deduce his present duty. 1 For without some means to 
make the insights of the Christian religion relevant in concrete 
circumstances, the separation, so generally deplored, between the 
spheres of public action and the inner world of the soul, between 
religion and life, becomes inevitable; Christian pronouncements 
011 the social order tend towards fatuity; and ecclesiastics, in 
Reinhold Niebuhr's phrase, risk indulging the 'illusion of idealistic 
children of light [which is] to imagine that we can destroy evil 
merely by avowing ideals'. 2 Emil Brunner speaks of the 
'borderland between technical action and ethics in economics, 
in politics, in public life', as the area where 'the great decisions 
are made'. And he warns that 'if the Christian ethic fails at this 
point, it fails all along the line'. 3 

The problem is a phase of the ancient and abiding task of 
determining what belongs to Caesar and what to God, a task 
frequently escaped by refuge in 'political agnosticism'. Following 
its meeting in Brussels in October 1954, the Committee on the 
Christian Responsiblity for European Co-operation issued a 
statement deploring what it termed the 'Angelic Fallacy' in some 
Christian thinking about politics and indicting 'an incapacity to 
discuss and decide in terms of concrete historical alternatives'. 
It was in the context of the defeat by default of the European 
Defence Community that the Committee called 'upon the 
Churches for a thorough re-examination of the Christian's role 

1 In his address opening the war-time Malvern Conference, Archbishop Temple attri- 
buted the ineffectiveness of Anglicanism in the social sphere in part 'to a lack in the 
Church of England as a whole of any systematic grasp of the relevant principles. By 
"systematic grasp" I mean an apprehension of the various principles concerned in their due 
order and subordination so that, if in any combination of circumstances it is impossible 
to give full expression to all, we know which should prevail and which should yield. 
We know the ultimate moral principle of all human relationships "thou shalt love thy 
neighbour as thyself". But we do not know at all clearly how this is to find expression in 
the relations to one another of corporate groups such as Employers' Federations and 
Trade Unions, or different nations, nor how it bears on the action of Trustees such as the 
Directors of a Company or the Government of a country. We lack what one school of 
Greek moralists called "the middle axioms" -those subordinate maxims which connect 
the ultimate principles with the complexities of the actual historical situations in which 
action has to be taken." Malvem, 1941, p. 10, 

z The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, p. 98. 

8 The Divine Imperative, p. 262. 


in politics iii order that the expression of his political concern 
shall not be dissipated but shall truly reflect the transforming 
mission of the fellowship of believers'. 1 

4. At present, as the chapter, 'The Social Philosophy of the 
World Council of Churches', has disclosed, the Council is 
not in possession of a coherent social ethic, though the begin- 
nings may possibly be perceived in the inquiry being pursued 
under the general caption, 'The Responsible Society'. The need 
of such a body of principles to serve as an instrument of social 
analysis and a matrix of practical judgment in concrete problems 
is recognized in some circles of the Ecumenical Community. Thus, 
the Council's Study Department, preparing the Survey for the 
Evanston Assembly's Section on 'The Responsible Society' 
reminded the delegates of the declaration of the Oxford Con- 
ference in 1937 that the churches must develop 'a common body 
of Christian criteria and assumptions on social questions' to be 
able to meet the challenge confronting them in the modern 
world. Listed first among the 'Tasks for the Churches' was the 
need of developing 'a common ethos, common convictions 
concerning the destiny of man and his relation to society . . . con- 
victions about the structure of political institutions, the function 
of the state in economic life, the goals of economic life and the 
Christian criteria for measuring the desirability of social policy 
at many levels'. These are categories with which an 'ethic of 
ends' alone can deal. An 'ethic of inspiration', by definition, has 
no relation to such abstract realities. 

There is, however, no agreement within the Ecumenical 
Community on the necessity of an ethic of ends, much less an 
acceptance of a common basis for one. Possibly this is connected 
with a general falling off of interest today in theories about 

1 European Issues No. 5, p. 2. The further asserts: 'The Church is a pilgrim 
people, a people with a history and to whom history is meaningful. There is a certain 
sense in which the Church's obligation transcends historical demands and there may be 
moments in which the transcendent reference must take priority. But on the daily 
political level it is not the obligation of the Church to proclaim abstract values, but to 
help her people in obedience to God's will and in response to God's grace "to change what 
should be changed, to bear with what cannot be changed and to have the wisdom to 
know the difference".' 


society noted by Professor Alfred Cobban. 1 The more likely 
explanation is the fear in many quarters of the World Council 
membership that such an approach supposes a static code of 
behaviour alien to the spirit of biblical charity, and, springing 
from this fear, a preference for the prophetic utterances. Being 
a personal perception of the proper course of moral action, such 
an approach can offer no counsel on general topics; it is perforce 
silent when questioned, for example, about the structure of 
political institutions. The proponents of an 'ethic of inspiration' 
would undoubtedly remonstrate that such questions arc not 
'interesting' and have no reference to Christian categories of 
thinking. 2 

It may well be a concession to such an outlook that the Survey 
speaks of the need of a 'common ethos' rather than a common 
ethic, the latter connoting in some ecumenical circles a code of 
human construction alien to the gospel. It is significant, more- 
over, that the phrases, 'civic duty' and 'the citizen', are not found 
in World Council literature on social questions, reflecting, perhaps, 
a fear that such concepts concede an autonomy to the natural 
order and imply a separation between the Lordship of Christ 
and the claims of the Temporal City. To raise such a question 
leads immediately into the field of strict theology which offers, 
in its different ecclesiastical traditions, various verdicts on the 
worth of the world and the condition of humanity after the 
blight of Original Sin. These theological preconceptions underlie 
discussions in the World Council constituency on the social order 
and international affairs; they are involved in such practical points 
as whether human reason is a dependable instrument of social 

i'The Decline of Political Theory', Political Science Quarterly, 68 (September 1953), 
pp. 231-37. Ominously, Professor Cobban finds this development 'a reflection of the 
feeling that ethical values have no place in die field of social dynamics and power polities'. 

a An example of prophetic utterance is Karl Barth's judgment, 'speaking as a theologian", 
at the time of the Munich crisis that in the event of war Czech soldiers would be fighting 
for the Church of Jesus Christ. Cf. 'Brief an Hromadka in Prag', Eine Schweixerstlmme 
(Zurich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1945), p. 58 as cited in Gill, op. clt>, p. 105. The warrant 
for such a verdict is found in a personal understanding of the meaning of God's Word 
in September 1938 and offers no basis for deducing the duty of the Czech Army in 
February 1948. 


analysis, one capable of devising a more just Temporal City, 
whether non-Christians have political rights (and, if so, on what 
basis), whether co-operation for social objectives between men of 
different faiths is possible (and, if so, on what grounds). 

The problem of ends, if a pun is permissible, comes first and 
would seem to be inescapable. There is as yet in the World 
Council of Churches no common conviction on ends; there has 
not been sufficient time (nor, perhaps, sufficient concentration) 
to establish a common tradition. Emil Brunner has pointed out 
that the absence of a theory of justice is stultifying. 1 And the 
Survey prepared for the Evanston Assembly's Section on Inter- 
national Affairs posed as one of the 'Underlying Questions for the 
Churches' the issue: 'Is there sufficient agreement on the principles 
of Christian action [in the international field] for any agency to 
act confidently in the name of the ecumenical fellowship?' The 
necessity of an 'ethic of ends', of a theory of justice, will be 
evident, for example, in considering possible modifications of 
the wage system. Are salaries to be measured by economic 
contribution, or is social need a factor to be included in a 
moral appraisal and provision made, consequently, for some 
form of family allowances? What, in fact, are the criteria to 
be invoked in calculating a just wage, a just price, a fair fiscal 

The first step in establishing the content of a common ethos 
would seem to be a routine problem of semantics, of compiling 
a common vocabulary for ecumenical discourse. The Faith and 
Order Commission has indicated that definitions are a primary 

1 'Protestant Christianity has had none [a theory of justice] for some three hundred years 
past. That may sound a bold statement; it can, unfortunately, be proved. It is doubtless 
one of the main reasons why the Protestant church is so unsure of itself in questions of 
the social order, economics, law, politics and international law, and why its statements 
on these subjects are so haphazard and improvised that they fail to carry conviction.' 
Justice and the Social Order, p. 7. The lack of a common, coherent theory of justice which. 
Brunner set himself to remedy was illustrated during a discussion of the World Council's 
Study Commission III, at a meeting at Bossey, June 24, 1947, preparing for the Amsterdam 
Section on economic, politics and cultural problems. During an inconclusive argument 
on the functions of the State, a member, Jacques Ellul, insisted that before die tasks of the 
State could be fixed, the nature of justice and the relation of the State to law must be 


necessity for the progress of its work. As a common acceptation 
of the word 'Church', for example, has its obvious relevance for 
discussions of theological problems, so a common understanding 
of the word 'State' would seem essential for ecumenical dis- 
cussions on social questions. The request voiced by a delegate 
during a Sectional meeting at Evanston should not go indefinitely 
unanswered: he wanted the terms justice', 'democracy' and 
'freedom' defined. 

5. There is in the Protestant tradition of thought a deep-rooted 
suspicion of earthly power as contrary to the spirit of the gospel 
and a reluctant acceptance of force as a measure necessary to 
restrain the effects of sin. The collaboration of human wills 
towards a common goal calls for a unity of direction and thus 
implies authority (whatever its source) with the power of sanctions 
(else law is merely good advice); this, however, is an emphasis 
not altogether congenial to the genius of Protestantism which 
prizes personal independence and favours private responsibility. 
Such an outlook tends to expect that the solution of economic 
problems will follow if the moral climate of society is changed 
by the spiritual regeneration of individuals; 1 it tends to neglect 
the problem of the reform of structures, not least those of the 
State, as involved in achieving a greater measure of economic 
equity; it tends to subordinate the study of institutions. Both 
emphases are, to be sure, essential. 2 Unless selfishness in all its 
socially destructive forms greed, callousness, exploitation of 
others, luxury, indvisme is restrained by personal inner control, 
the most admirably arranged technical structures will prove 
ineffective. On the other hand, much of the imprecision of 
World Council pronouncements, it would appear, is a result of 

1 Moral Re-Armament is an example. 

8 Wilhelm Ropke's explanation of his social analysis is apposite here: 'Concentration 
on the moral and spiritual aspect with neglect of the institutional would be dangerously 
one-sided and in Theology would be condemned as supernaturalism or spiritualism; it 
would create the impression that we were mere dreamers being out of touch with the 
realities of life. The moral and the institutional are not subsidiary one to the other but stand 
in a relationship of mutual reciprocity like the Evangelists' seed and soil which must be 
familiar to every Christian. One cannot be separated from the other, the institutional is 
just as important as the moral and spiritual; fundamentally these can be conceived only 
as a unity.' CMtas Humana, p. xxii. 


a failure to examine concrete political and economic institutions 
at close hand. 

6. Clarification of the implications of the Third Way is ham- 
pered by the ecumenical methodology pursued by the World 
Council and by the meagreness of the resources at its command. 
From the description of its activity offered earlier, it will be 
recalled that the Council's Study Department conducts no 
independent research, maintains no organizational point of view 
on social problems, offers no solutions of its own. Even the topics 
it examines are designated by the Central Committee where 
official representatives of the member churches fix the policy 
and programme of the Council between Assemblies. The function 
of die Study Department, then, is exclusively one of service, 
encouraging the collaboration of interested groups in the churches, 
arranging ecumenical encounters on social questions, circulating 
material indicating opinion current in the World Council 

In its endeavour to stimulate ecumenical interest in the social 
field and to formulate positions representative of the points of 
view of its entire constituency, the Study Department must rely 
(apart from its permanent, understaffed Secretariat) on volunteer 
collaborators. There is always the danger that collaborators will 
show more enthusiasm than competence. 1 Since the World 
Council is a fellowship of churches, these collaborators will be 
in large part ecclesiastics whose normal professional training 
will not have included much attention to economics, political 

1 The desire to hear the voices of the 'Younger Churches' is understandable, even if 
that is no guarantee of the wisdom, or even moderation of view, of the representatives 
from former mission lands. Thus, an Indian expressed his dissatisfaction with die summary 
of the Amsterdam studies for Section III as found in the introduction to the background 
volume because it did not opt for the Marxist solution, His political sagacity may be 
judged from his belief that 'the Communist Parties of Europe are standing for liberalism. 
in Asiatic politics and as bearers of liberalism in world politics today. Socialism is all of 
the right, including Reinhold Niebuhr's Fellowship of Christian Socialists.' Archives. 
His engaging, if chauvinistic, assurance that, given fifty years, India will solve all the social 
problems under debate and his optimism, evidenced in the conviction that Asiatic Christians 
should co-operate with 'the bulwark of liberal ideas and liberal values, the revolutionary 
Communist Parties', make clearer the triumph of the Communist-directed coalition in 
Travancore-Gochin, India's most modern, most literate and most Christian State, in 
March 1954. 


science, sociology and even history. 1 There is an awareness, 
expressed occasionally at ecumenical meetings, of the need of 
greater lay participation in the elaboration of Study Department 
inquiries, a recognition that realistic applications of the demands 
of justice in the concrete circumstances of modern social organiza- 
tion call for the co-operation of theologian, jurist and economist. 
One of the essential functions of the Ecumenical Institute at 
Bossey is to serve as a centre for such encounters. Such meetings 
are undoubtedly fruitful in forming friendships and introducing 
the participants to the problems and points of view of different 
intellectual disciplines. 

Patience would seem to be the principal virtue demanded of 
the World Council Study Department as it prepares, for delegates 
to ecumenical meetings, background material which is often 
unexploited 2 and arranges the agenda for discussions which all 
too frequently is ignored because the speakers are arguing from 
different premises. Yet, in the absence of a common tradition, 
it is from the collaboration of dedicated volunteers and by means 
of ecumenical exchange over a period of years that the World 
Council must build the body of common convictions that will 
serve as its social philosophy, the rationale of its counsel for the 
bettering of the Temporal City. 

In the course of its development, the World Council has had 
many questions to ask itself, the most primary and preoccupying 
being that of its own ecclesiastical significance. In the course of 
its growth (and in the process of organizing the common con- 
victions underlying its criticism of the economic order) it will 
undoubtedly think through the rationale of its concern for social 
questions, an interest which seems sometimes confused with the 

1 An economist present once pointed out to World Council Study Committee members 
deploring the herding characteristic of modern cities that the phenomenon was not 
unconnected with the astonishing growth of the world's population in modern times 
and that this was in part due to the extension of life expectancy, a result of modern 
medicine and the reduction of famines by the division of labour. Technics, moreover, 
it was indicated, are necessary to feed the teeming population of the world today. Archives. 

2 After the Lund Meeting of Faith and Order, an observer suggested that delegates 
should be made to pass an examination on the background volumes, supplied as discussion 
aids, to guarantee that they would be read. Thirteen years had been devoted to preparing 
the material. 


goal of evangelism. 1 An earnest concern that the gospel win a 
hearing among the economically underprivileged, a generous 
interest in the aspirations of the working man are understandahle 
and surely praiseworthy on the part of religious leaders. Such 
apostolic interest sometimes seems, however, to identify the 
ambiguous political objectives, frequently proposed to the 
European 'proletariat', with the ethical good and to forget that 
the workers are subject to the same human moral frailties as their 
employers. Moreover, a surer notion of the audience envisaged 
for its appraisals of international affairs and economic conditions 
would aid the editorial point of view of ecumenical pronounce- 
ments. 2 Reports of World Council Assemblies are, to be sure, 
'received and commended to the churches for their serious con- 
sideration and appropriate action', but manifestly it is hoped that 
the analyses and suggestions will be studied outside the member 

I During a meeting of the Study Department Commission at Cambridge in August 
1946, Emil Biunner was led to remark: 'Our aim is not so much to convert the present 
world as to make Christianity relevant to it. That is only a first step. What interests 
people who are outside, what makes it relevant to them, is the message which the Church 
has for the present social problems an the widest sense of the word and, if we put that in 
the front, we shall have a chance to attract their attention, so that they say, after all the 
Church has a word for us. The difficulty is that in the Church on the Continent these two 
tasks are always mixed together. People want to speak of the essential message of Christ 
for reconciliation, and at the same time about the social message, but the two cannot be 
brought together in that way and our task seems to me to be to concentrate on our original 
purpose, which is the purpose of Life and Work and say what is the message of the church 
with regard to these problems of social life and not confuse them with the second part 
of the gospel. 1 Minutes (mimeographed) (Geneva: World Council, 1946), p. 9. Brunner's 
advice seems to have been ignored. The World Council official directing the inquiry on 
the Responsible Society writes: 'The concern of the Christian is not limited to that which 
is individual or that which is social but is for the whole of a man's life as included in the 
plan of God. ... It is that evangelistic purpose, in its most realistic and inclusive sense, 
that is the motivation of the Christian thinking about society which underlies [the inquiry] . 
By our action in society we strive to ensure that the ground in which the seed of God's 
Word is planted will bring forth the largest harvest.' Paul Abrecht, 'Christian Action in 
Society', ER n (Winter 1950), 2, p. 151. 

II Discussing the theme of the Evanston Assembly, Reinhold Niebuhr raised the 
question 'about the primary end and purpose of such a meeting', asking: 'Is it to "establish 
the brethren" and create the broadest and most satisfactory biblical basis for our ecumen- 
ical consensus? Or is the purpose of an ecumenical meeting to bear witness to our faith 
in the world? That can hardly be our primary purpose but no one can deny that what is 
said at the Assembly will be overheard in the world and will be meant to be overheard.' 
ER, v (July 1953), 4, P- 3<53- 


3. Future Concerns 

The World Council has no action programme of its own 
apart from the co-operative work for refugees attached to its 
Secretariat. The question of the audience envisaged for its 
pronouncements raises the more ultimate topic of its expectation 
of any possible implementing of its recommendations, of the 
grounds and possibility of co-operation, for example, with 
non-Christian organizations and groups. This last point repeats, 
but in different form, the question of the basis of the World 
Council's policy about temporal affairs. Is the Commission of the 
Churches on International Affairs, to be precise, to co-operate 
with United Nations agencies and specifically, is it to work for 
legal protection of human rights because the imperatives of the 
Christian religion seek the universal good of all men, or is its 
interest to be evoked by the particular organizational needs of 
its constituents? 

Although it has no action programme of its own, an area which 
the World Council cannot permanently neglect is the field of 
education. The omission of the subject from the list of inquiries 
to date is somewhat surprising since the problems of education 
occupied the attention of an entire Section at the ecumenical 
assemblies at Stockholm and Oxford. Moreover, in his book 
on the State, the former Director of the Council's Study Depart- 
ment, Nils Ehrenstrom, recognized that it is on the cultural level 
that the lines between religion and the encroachments of the 
omnicompetent State are first drawn, that education is an 
especially sensitive area in the unending struggle for the protection 
of human freedom. 1 Subsequent history has furnished ample 
warrant for his fears. For the structure of a nation's educational 
system is an infallible barometer of the respect society is prepared 
to accord parental rights, and the CCIA's effort to have the 
principle written into the Declaration and Convention on Human 
Rights indicates that the Ecumenical Community is aware of this 

1 'May it not be that the great conflict between the Church and the modern or neo- 
pagan State will be fought out in this sphere of the secondary functions of the State and 
within the sphere of education in particular?' Christian Faith and the Modem State, p. 228, 


fact. Moreover, the availability of educational opportunities, 
even on the university level, reveals the acceptance of the claims 
of social justice in a society; the war-time campaign of the 
churches in England for an extension of these opportunities 
manifested an awareness of that fact. 

In addition to serving as a test of cultural freedom and a symbol 
of social justice in the political order, the field of education has 
other angles of interest for the World Co'uncil. Obviously, 
secular disciplines must be drawn upon if its social analyses and 
prescriptions are to have any precision, not to mention accuracy. 
To elaborate the practical applications of justice in modern 
society, the theologian must collaborate with experts in apposite 
fields. That partnership has not been achieved, 1 probably 
because of the temper of contemporary education but, in any 
case, to the detriment of the World Council's hope to work out 
an intellectually acceptable and viable Third Way in social 
questions and international relations. More important still is the 
effect of education on the capacity of the modern mind to 
understand, not merely the language, but the point of view of 
World Council pronouncements. 8 

The situation is not remedied by estabHshing chairs of Social 
Ethics in the Faculties of Theology (though their absence in 
European universities does not facilitate the growth of common 
convictions to aid in furnishing the bases of the World Council's 

1 Emil Brunncr describes the present situation thus: 'Firstly, theologians and other 
Christian teachers rest content with amateurish improvisations which have of late taken as 
their watchword: "The Church as Sentinel"; secondly, jurists, sociologists and economists 
entrench themselves behind the neutrality of a science which they allege to be free of 
philosophic bias.' Justice and the Social Order, p. 119. 

a A Professor of Teachers' College, Columbia University, addressed himself to this 
problem which touches closely the work of the World Council. In the Rauschenbusch 
Lectures of 1940, Dr. F. Ernest Johnson, argued: 'We are concerned throughout this whole 
discussion with the development of an adequate social ethic. My contention has been that 
in our tireless formulation of social creeds and framing of social resolutions we have 
overlooked the basic problem the secularization of the modern mind. Before any 
ethical reconstruction can take place, there must be a widespread amenability to spiritual 
principles that have relevance Lo the common life. Otherwise religion inevitably becomes 

escapist Education, is typically earned out without specific and continuous reference 

to the central spiritual values of our culture and without the reverent cultivation of those 
values which it is the function of religion to maintain,' The Social Gospel Re-examined, 
p, 169- 


social criticism). There is need, to be sure, of persistent and 
systematized efforts to think out the implications for modern 
industrial society of the Christian message. The World Council's 
Study Department must be well aware of Professor R.. H. 
Tawney's indictment, summarizing his impressive historical 
study: 'The social teaching of the Church had ceased to 
count, because the Church itself had ceased to think.' 1 The 
difficulties, however, are not confined to membership of the 

The task would appear to call for a realistic examination of the 
values which contemporary education assumes or avows, an 
appraisal of how these shape the popular mind and a prolonged 
consideration of the methods whereby the values, implicit in the 
Christian conception of man, values on which European civiliza- 
tion is built, can be reintroduced into the educational processes, 
whether formally through the official school systems, or by 
influencing the modern mass media of communication, the Press, 
the radio, opinion-forming literature, or in devising study circles 
on a large scale. For if public opinion rests ignorant of (or 
worse, instinctively prejudiced against) the premises of the "World 
Council's social criticism, then the pessimistic prognosis of Ernst 
Troeltsch, expressed in 1911 on the effectiveness of Christian 
social action in the modern world, cannot be gainsaid. 2 

4. Summary of Achievements 

But whatever its future influence (and he who would read the 
future today is a hardy spirit), the organized Ecumenical Move- 
ment has, by its pronouncements and its common action, made a 

1 Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, p. 185, 'In an age of impersonal finance, world- 
markets and a capitalist organization of industry, its [the Church's] traditional social 
doctrines had no specific to offer, and were merely repeated, when, in order to be 
effective, they should have been thought out again from the beginning and formulated 
in new and living terms.' Ibid., p. 184. 

a Op. cit., H, p. 1012. The reasons Troeltsch adduced are two: 'Because the power of 
thought to overcome brutal reality is always an obscure and difficult question* and 
'because the main historic forms of the Christian doctrine of society and of social develop- 
ment are today, for various reasons, impotent in face of the tasks by which they are 


distinct contribution to contemporary social thought whose 
importance should not be neglected. The World Council of 
Churches, it must never be forgotten, speaks for a constituency 
of different continents, races and nationalities. It has proclaimed 
truths whose significance for a human world of justice and peace 
cannot be measured. 

1. It has indefatigably asserted the essential dignity of man, 
the object of a divine creating and redeeming love. On this 
dignity it grounds its demand for human rights and social justice 
for everypnoj:i/)For when any person is mistreated or dis- 
advantaged, an incident of supreme importance has occurred, 
whether or not legal systems or political parties or a busy public 
condones the outrage. God has been mocked, and something 
sacred violated. 

2. It has recalled a fundamental truth, that man cannot live for 
himself alone. In the Christian perspective he is his brother's 
keeper with responsibilities arising from God's love for all men. 
He may not wash his hands of the world, therefore, declaring 
that injustice is of no concern to him. This obligation of service 
is inescapable: it tests his love of God and by its fulfilment the 
quality of his life will ultimately be measured. 

3. It has indicated that civic responsibilities are an intimate part 
of that obligation of service, responsibilities which are not limited 
to the mechanisms of national political systems but include 
interest in international organizations in view of the world 
community to be constructed. 

4. It has, by its existence and activities, reminded national 
political authorities and international agencies of the motivation 
and the existence of programmes of social assistance of crucial 
importance which they are inclined to forget. The motivation 
is that of charity and the programmes are those in the fields of 
health, of education and of personal care, conducted by spiritually- 
motivated volunteers, under religious auspices, in mission terri- 
tories as well as in the countries once called Christendom. 
Altruism is a social fact which international organizations tend 
to ignore until confronted with unrewarding chores such as 


finding Homes for refugees. "Without charity which, on the 
evidence of history, is inspired only by the Christian religion 
the contours of the world of the future will be insupportably 

5. It has proclaimed the spiritual solidarity of all mankind, thus 
chaHenging the pretensio"ns of absolute national sovereignty, the 
myths of inevitable class conflict and the fears of irreconcilable 
regional rivalries. There are in these truths of the Christian 
-religion political implications of incalculable consequence. 

Systems of legally enforced racial segregation, distracting ideo- 
logies, the division of the world into 'the haves' and 'the have- 
nots' stand under the condemnation of this principle. 

6. It has taught the equality of all men in a common destiny 
and a divinely certified value. Such an announcement has nothing 
in common with any doctrine that would annul individual, 
native differences of talent, penalize the fruits of personal industry 
and sanctify the human instinct of envy in a destructive levelling 
of society to satisfy the politically inculcated aspirations of 'the 
common man'. It voices, rather, the irreducible claims of a 
common humanity to its common goods and bespeaks the rights 
of the individual to an equality of opportunity in providing 
himself and his family with ..tjie, necessities for a truly human 
existence. It rejects, therefore, any claim to fix trade policies and 
immigration quotas without reference to the needs of other 
nations. It is ummpressed by the sacredness of any particular 
standard of living and its claim for protection in the face of 
hunger elsewhere in the world. Exclusive rights to the economic 
exploitation of territories by reason of colonial conquest strike 
it as a pettifogging justification of greed. Advances in technical 
knowledge that foster health and improve food production, it 
holds to be the heritage of all men. Opportunities of educational 
advancement, it insists, must not be determined by social 
status. And in potentially its most effective action the World 
Council's Second Assembly condernneclany form of segregation 
and called on its member churches to work for its abolition 


7. It has declared tliat economic processes and international 
affairs are neither beyond human control nor are they self- 
regulatory. They are subject to norms outside their own sphere 
of operations, standards which, are determined by their ultimate 
function which is to serve man in Mfilling his destiny. National 
prestige and private acquisitiveness stand under the judgment 
of these standards. For the activities of the market-place, the 
Parliaments and the councils of nations are answerable to an 
Ultimate Justice not of human contriving nor human perverting. 
To bring the mechanisms ofjnan's dealings with his fellows 
into a clearer recognition of their subservience to God > F"W3l 
and to frame more concretely the conditions for their equitable 
operation is a continuing task of the World Comicllljii its search 
for a Third Way. 

8. It has insisted that the world, despite the perplexities it 
presents, is not absurd, that human work, though humdrum and 
unrewarding, is not meaningless, that^ the life of the meanest 
individual, especially when forgotten or victimized, has signifi- 
cance. In amiouncing the reality of God ,aaid-Chrisjc!iJLordsliip 
of His world, it speaks to a baffled generation a word of hope. 



THE present work, as the Foreword declared, is not a theological study. 

In analysing die two principal attitudes and, indeed, approaches to 
die problem of a social philosophy current in the World Council 
constituency, reference was made to a distinction invoked at the First 
Assembly to represent the 'deepest differences' in the Ecumenical 
Community. 1 The difference 'to which, by many paths, we are con- 
stantly brought back', was attributed to two contrasting conceptions, 
each representing 'a whole corporate tradition of the understanding 
of Christian faith and life*. The two conceptions were acknowledged 
to be 'inconsistent with each other'. 2 The names used to denominate 
the twin tendencies, the contrasting emphases, the two conceptions, 
were 'Catholic', and 'Protestant'. The Amsterdam Report observed that 
the two categories were not co-extensive with confessional allegiances 
or ecclesiastical groupings: 'Clearly "Catholic" is not used here to mean 
Roman Catholic, and "Protestant" in most of Europe is better rendered 
by "Evangelical".' It added also diat each category, while standing 
for distinct corporate traditions, 'contains within it a wide variety of 
emphasis and many "schools of thought'". 3 

To categorize the two contrasting points of view in the field of 
social philosophy, each of them also standing for a whole corporate 
tradition, this study chose the captions: an 'ethic of ends' and an 'ethic 
of inspiration'. The captions, while not in general use, were employed 
by die editor of the Official Reports of the 1937 Oxford Conference 
of the Universal Christian Council on Life and Work, a predecessor 
of die World Council of Churches. It was feared that the use of the 
captions employed by the First Assembly to denominate the two 

1 Cf. supra, p. 93. 

2 Amsterdam, p. 52. 

9 The First Assembly averred, further, that the member churches of the World Council, 

despite the fundamental division between them, are able 'to speak in the common language 

of the divine revelation witnessed to in the Scriptures, about the points at which we find 

we meet*. They proclaimed that they intend 'to stay together'. 



traditions would be distracting and might even appear tendentious. 
Besides, as the Amsterdam Report noted, within each conception there 
are differences of emphasis and separate schools of thought. Thus, 
Karl Barth and Emil Brunner, diverse though they be in their approach 
to the problems of social philosophy (and certainly in their political 
outlooks), are both members of the Swiss Protestant Church Federation. 

There are, however, reasons beyond political preferences and 
individual temperaments accounting for the contrasting emphases 
in the field of ethics of the two chief corporate traditions of the 
understanding of Christian life and faith, as described by the First 
Assembly of the World Council of Churches. The roots of these 
differences between, to be precise, those opting for an 'ethic of ends' 
and those insisting on an 'ethic of inspiration' are found in opposing 
judgments on the human predicament, man's nature and capacities 
and, particularly, his relation to his Maker. They derive, then, from 
theology. The late Irving Babbitt noted some years ago that differ- 
ences of opinion in economics (translate: social policy) were a mani- 
festation of divergent ideas in ethics which were ultimately a reflection 
of contrasting conceptions in theology. 

Some explanation, in summary and global fashion, may be expected 
of the twin theological traditions, 'Catholic' and 'Protestant', from 
which the two diverse approaches to social philosophy, the 'ethic of 
ends' and the 'ethic of inspiration', derive. Obviously, there is no 
intention of offering a supplement or commentary, or of suggesting a 
corrective, to the prodigious research of Ernst Trocltsch but rather of 
clarifying, perhaps, the doctrinal grounds on which some of the views 
expressed in World Council meetings are based. 

It is of capital importance, at the outset, to recall that Christianity is 
not essentially a theology nor a moral system, much less a programme 
for the proper ordering of civilization. It is a gospel an announce- 
ment making definite affirmations about the nature and destiny of 
man, rather than a group of principles providing moral guidance for 
happy living and successful social relationships. As an interpretation 
of the human situation the complexus of the affirmations made by the 
Christian religion can, however, be called a philosophy; and, though, 
this study is not a theological excursus, it may be useful to present a 
summary of that philosophy. The entire membership of the World 
Council would, I believe, accept without objection (beyond reserva- 
tions on its completeness) the phrasing of V. A. Demant, a member 


of die Drafting Committee of Amsterdam's Section on Social 

This Christian philosophy contains three axioms. The first is that in the 
actual world tilings are not true to their essential nature. There has been 
a Fall. The second is that 'the good' of anything is a recovery of its true 
nature and diat diis recovery is made, not by any self-improvement, but 
by die act of God. There follows die third principle, diat the true nature 
of any created diing is only sustained when it is held to its true end by 
supernatural direction and power. The good life is therefore in the 
Christian Faidi something to be recovered rather than created by man. . . . 
Man's true nature is bought back widi a price. 1 

The price was the death of Jesus Christ, God and Man. 

The 'Catholic 5 tradition, interpreting these three assertions, main- 
tains that mankind, impaired as a consequence of its primordial 
rebellion against its Maker, has been restored by the sacrificial obedience 
of its representative, Jesus Christ. This restoration is effected in the 
individual by his integration into the Christian Community, the 
Church, which communicates to him through special rites entrusted 
to it spiritual capacities (called grace) beyond all deserving. Grace 
does not annul nor supplant human nature but heals and perfects it, 
empowering the Christian to merit by his daily life the reward of 
eternity with his Creator, which he already possesses in germ. An 
adequate understanding of life's meaning comes only from hearing 
and accepting (by an adherence of the intellect) God's message to man 
preserved by the Community, the Church, to whom its proclamation 
and interpretation have been entrusted. Likewise, a faithful fulfilment 
of God's Will is possible only by reason of His assistance mediated 
through this Community; for human nature remains in precarious 
disequilibrium with pride and passion asserting themselves. By his 
reason, however, man may arrive at a knowledge of the basic truths 
of die human condition including the fact of die existence of God 
and the general rules of right and wrong. These norms are dis- 
coverable in the very structure of the universe, a hierarchy of created 
entities whose operations reveal their nature and whose nature reveals 
dieir ends, die whole a complex but co-ordinated order revealing the 

1 Theology of Society, p. II. Admittedly, there is a 'Catholic' emphasis in, this summary 
since Canon Deinant is an Anglican. A certain disproportion is inevitable. If a single 
satisfactory comprehensive and significant statement, balancing both emphases justly, 
could be written, there would not be differing whole corporate traditions of the under- 
Standing of Christian faith and Hfe n6r any World Council of Churches for that matter. 


mind of God. The knowledge of this divine plan by human reason 
indicates duties, though supplying no power to fulfil them. The 
principles of moral conduct, deduced from a contemplation of the 
created scheme of things, known as the Natural Law, lends itself to 
more detailed deductions by further reasoning and to applications in 
concrete human situations. These more ultimate conclusions, specified 
generally in legal enactments, will be often fallible and fragmentary 
and frequently ambiguous, making severe demands upon the 
intellectual virtue of practical prudence. 

The 'Catholic' tradition asserts, moreover, that the plan of God in 
creating man and humanity's admittedly imperfect comprehension 
of the plan are not in conflict with the effects of God's subsequent 
personal entrance on the human scene nor His direct communication 
of His will to men. The imperious thrust of man's nature to associate 
with his fellows has not been reversed by sin nor revoked by the for- 
giveness of sin. Thus, the family and society continue to answer the 
needs of man-as-man. Their purposes are permanent the fulfilment 
of the individual's incompleteness however ennobled by Christ's 
action and message. And since their essential purposes arc stable, the 
general laws of their proper functioning can be established. To assure 
the steady co-operation of individual wills for the common good of 
the community, political authority is needed. The State, therefore, is 
demanded by essential human nature, and its purposes, the achieving 
of peace and the promotion of the temporal welfare, are dictated by 
human reason. In consequence, the wisdom of the philosophers, while 
of a subordinate level of truth, is not to be condemned; their discoveries 
of the laws of society's nature and functioning have not been cancelled, 
In some matters Alexandria has need of Athens. 

The 'Catholic' emphasis, then, envisages articulated and integrated 
orders of reality, established in a hierarchy of values and purposes, 
fixed by God's knowledge of His infinite instability and crowned by 
His gift to mankind of a new destiny beyond the deserts of human 
nature, a destiny disclosed in His messages and made possible by the 
work of His Son, one with man in all save sin, a destiny, finally, to be 
achieved by die individual in his toilsome fulfilment of God's will with 
the co-operation of His grace. Attaining his destiny for the Christian 
inescapably involves his conduct in the common life of communal 
activities and family responsibilities. 

It will be evident that the 'Catholic' emphasis first locates die 


individual in the community. It is the community mankind that 
Christ rescued from its rebellion and re-established in God's favour. 
It is in the spiritual community the Church that the individual 
hears God's message; in the same community that he makes contact 
with God's grace. It is the secular community of his fellows society 
that is the scene where (in an old English phrase) he 'makes his soul', 
principally by his service to others. That human community the 
Temporal City is recognized as part of God's plan, with human 
reason reporting the general lines of the individual's proper place in 
that City. Specifically, the just laws of the community, whatever its 
political form, speak with the authority of God who fashioned man as 
an innately social being and are supported with sanctions beyond this 
world. The spiritual freedom of salvation does not excuse one from 
obedience to the just laws of the human community nor the obligation 
of engaging oneself in its legitimate tasks. Universal human sinlessness 
would not have obviated the need of a political order; nor did the 
primordial sin of mankind alone make legal direction an inevitable 
function of the political community. For the State has positive pur- 
poses (beyond die mere repression of anarchy), and the co-ordination 
of individual human wills, whatever their spiritual state, supposes the 
activity of political authority. 

The 'Catholic' emphasis finds a basic order underlying natural social 
structures whose rules are discoverable by reason supplemented and 
clarified but never contradicted by God's direct message to mankind. 
Such a view strives to elaborate a coherent theory of social relations 
founded on a clear conception of human nature, a scaffolding of 
principles yielding judgments, sometimes ambiguous and fallible to 
be sure, on social questions. 

The 'Protestant' emphasis finds this whole scheme a pretentious 
construction of human vanity, useless for die personal decisions of 
moral life and, in any case, too static to explain die religious experiences 
described in, Reformation theology. It presents too benign a view of 
human nature, minimizes the demonic power of sin in die world and 
disregards the total transcendence of God. 1 

For the corporate tradition of die understanding of Christian life and 
faith termed 'Protestant' at Amsterdam states the religious problem 

1 Thus, at an early preparatory meeting for Amsterdam, Dr. Rcinhold Niebuhr objected 
to the fine formulation of the theme, "The Order of God and the Present Disorder of 
Man', remarking; 'Order is too close to law to contain love, mercy, redemption as against 
the sin of man." World Council Study Department Document; aoE/4<5, p. 5. 


differendy. Agreeing with the three assertions in Canon Demant's 
summary, the interpretation of the 'Protestant' emphasis centres its 
focus on the individual, his essential sinfulness and his solitary experi- 
ence of his Saviour's forgiving embrace encountered through His 
saving Word in the Bible. 1 The sinfulness remains because essential 
rehabilitation is impossible; the redemption has happened because 
Christ's triumph is attributed to the individual; the restoration occurs 
because the trusting, sinful child has met his loving, heavenly Father. 

In this theological conception the individual is irreparably corrupted 
in his essential nature by mankind's primordial rebellion against God, 
although restored to favour by the miracle of divine forgiveness. The 
paradox consists in the fact that the Christian is pardoned while 
continuing to be inextricably involved in sin. Within differing 
explanations of the modalities of that essential paradox, the leaders 
of the Reformation agreed that die merits of Christ's sacrificial death 
were substituted for the sin of humanity and are imputed to the 
individual when his will, in an act of trust, yields itself to God's mercy. 
Direct access to God is available to ah 1 who hear God's message as 
transcribed in the Bible and, relying on His faithfulness, answer the 
appeal by a proper attitude of confident acceptance of divinely prof- 
fered pardon. Despair, weakness, rebellion and impurity are not 
barriers to God's mercy; indeed, diey may well serve to sharpen die 
consciousness of sin and heighten the sense of God's triumphant mercy. 

The resolution of die problem proposed by die question, 'How shall 
I obtain a gracious God?' is presented as a dialogue carried on in die 
secret recesses of each human heart between a loving God and his 
trusting, sinful child. Human mediation is not merely superfluous, 
it is impossible in such an encounter. The reverent reading of the 
Bible provides the context of this saving confrontation of God's mercy 
and the individual's soul. The testimony of die Spirit, inwardly 
experienced, is the ineffable assurance of forgiveness as it is of die 
Tightness of decisions of moral action taken under the guidance of 

1 The spokesman of the Swiss Delegation at the Stockholm Conference, Professor 
Hadorn, phrased this focus thus: 'For Protestantism, unlike the Catholicism of the 
Roman Church, does not proceed from the community to the individual, but from the 
individual to the community. In other words, die Protestant Church stands or falls 
according as the question, which so profoundly engrossed the mind of Luther, "How 
shall I obtain a gracious God?" becomes the foundation of a healthy life of Christian 
fellowship and of vigorous witness and propaganda in the world, . . . The salvation of the 
individual man through the Gospel of Jesus Christ by means of the grace of God grasped 
by faith (solajide) is and remains the primary tiling.' Stockholm, p. 439. 


God's personal message disclosed to the Christian prayerfully con- 
sulting the Word. 

There is, to be sure, a certain community of the saved whose 
numbers are known only to God a brotherhood of believers who 
have experienced God's pardon and trust in His promises. No one in 
the community has special spiritual powers; each individual makes 
contact with God in the privacy of his separate soul. Nor can the 
community as a social entity help him to obtain a gracious God beyond, 
of course, making available to him the printed record of God's "Word 
and encouraging him to turn from sin and confide himself to God's 
loving mercy. Nothing stands between the individual and his pardon- 
ing Father Who has no authorized human agents empowered to 
perform certain rites as instruments of salvation, signs of grace. God 
has ^ no ^ need of men. The Christian Community will take visible, 
institutional form as a Church when a group of believers, following 
Christ's injunction, gather together to hear the pure preaching of God's 
Word, to strengthen one another in, the faith and to be reminded, in 
the commemorative ceremony of the Lord's Supper, of Christ's 
redeeming death, 'The Church,' remarked Luther, 'is the company of 
people who believe in Christ'* and 'belief, according to the Reformer, 
did not mean an intellectual acceptance 'that what is said of God is 
true' which he considered 'rather a form of knowledge than a faith'; 
it meant, instead, 'tint I put my trust in Him, give myself up to think- 
ing that I can have dealings with Him and believe without any doubt 
that He will be and do to me according to the things said of Him. 
Such faith* which throws itself upon God, whether in life or in death, 
alone makes a Christian man.' 1 Historical developments, political 
rivalries, the variety of national cliaracteristics as well as personal 
vanity and group stubbornness, this tradition believes, account for the 
division of this Church into separate churches, a lamentable and sinful 
situation in manifest defiance of Christ's expressed will for unity. 

In an effort to magnify the majesty of God and to high-light the 
malice of sin the Reformation fixed as irreducible antinomies Creator 
and creature, reason and faith, grace and good works. These elements, 
existing always in tension in the Christian Weltanschauung, had been 
elaborated in a synthesis of co-ordinating factors in the relations of 

* Calvin, too, was forthright and exigent: 'Void done qud sacrifice ft nous fattt aujour- 
d'hui offrir k Dlen, e'est que tout ce qui est de notre nature soil 6tdnt et aboil et puis notre 
raison, car c'est le pire qui soit en nous.' Qtuwes competes (Braunschweig edition), 
Vol, as p, 779; as quoted by Cheaevike, La Pens^e PoUlique tie Cdvitt, p, 79, 


God with His creation. Seeking a return to the simplicities of primitive 
Christianity, the Reformation suppressed as alien elements the cate- 
gories of supernature, reason and good works in the account of God's 
dealing with men. 1 Human nature, essentially corrupted by sin, is 
incapable in this life of supporting the substantial ennoblement which 
St. Augustine had called a sharing of divinity; reason is an illusory 
instrument in the search for God's Will; good works a snare for 
human pride. The Natural Law, now identified with the Decalogue, 
is no longer a reflection in the structure of the universe of the infinitely 
imitable essence of its Creator but an arbitrary enactment of the divine 
Will having a provisional value to be obeyed in the spirit of faith. 
For, although annulled by the redemptive work of Christ, the Law yet 
remains in the new dispensation where all is grace and the saved arc 
free of the bonds of legal systems and the burdens of compulsion. 
Its Two Tables divide the sphere of action of the faithful Christian, the 
Commandments concerned with specifically religious matters remind- 
ing him of his Saviour's forgiveness, those concerned with his relations 
with his neighbour inviting him to an outpouring of service in a spirit 
of love. A dualism is thus introduced by the division of die Two 
Tables but all is subsumed under the single, subjective religious attitude 
of faith. The Christian is to submit to the demands of the natural 
order in so far as these do not require him to deny the exigencies of the 
pure doctrine of the Gospel. Social institutions, the family, commerce, 
government, are provisionally permitted by God for the space 
'between the times'; they serve die needs of material well-being and 
repress the ravages of sin. For there is no real contact between God 
and the natural order; Nature has been so corrupted by the Fall that 
not merely human nature but Nature in general only reveals God in 
exceptional circumstances. 

The result is what Trocltsch terms an 'ethic of disposition' and a 
'spiritual ethic', which is more a quality of living than a code of 

1 A celebrated sociologist of religion has described die verdict of the Reformers thus: 
'Man does not ascend from the Primitive State to a supernatural perfection which has 
already been prepared by Nature; the universe and the earth do not evolve from Nature 
into the realm of Grace; Society is not linked with a natural basis in order that there may 
be a natural continuity between it and the supernatural fellowship of Grace, In the 
Protestant theory everything is completed in a moment and the Aristotelian doctrine of 
evolution disappears, as well as the Neo-platonic theory of emanations. The Pall does not 
mean a relapse into Nature, and Redemption is not the ascent from Nature to Grace; 
rather the idea is that the Fall means the removal of Nature, and Redemption is its restora- 
tion.' Troeltsch, op. cit., n, p. 475. 


conduct, a spirit of confidence based on tlie absolute religious values 
of love of God and love of one's neighbour ratlier than a set of obliga- 
tions derived from an analysis of man's place in the created universe. 
Furthermore, in its concentration on the quest of die individual for a 
'gracious God', this emphasis sees nothing organic in die social order, 
save human solidarity in sin. 

In die 'Protestant' tradition the Christian looks backward with 
confidence in God's mercy to die work of his salvation accomplished 
on the Cross and forward with eager expectation to the day of Christ's 
return when this present world, spoiled by sin, will be no more and a 
new earth will be revealed and the Christian, glorified with Christ, 
will share His triumph. At present he lives 'between the times' and 
also between the conflicting claims of the Christ and die exigencies 
of the temporal order. 

It is traditional to distinguish within the 'Protestant' emphasis the 
Calvinist from the Ludicran contribution, in die development of social 
attitudes. For both leaders of the Reformation, however, the religious 
problem was die central one. Ediics was inseparable from dogma and 
of interest only as involved in the preaching of die pure doctrine of the 
Gospel. 1 However, Ludier's over-riding concern for a personal 
assurance of salvation in the blessedness of inner experience, his division 
of spheres of human activity into die Two Realms of die Heavenly 
Kingdom of love and forgiveness and the Eardily Kingdom of the 
sword and the law where power and coercion hold sway, his view diat 
die world is die devil's inn and die human heart alone the sanctuary 
of God's grace, suggests a separation of die concerns of the soul from 
the contamination of mundane affairs, 3 The emphasis of die German 

1 "This is why it is so mistaken to try to save the honour of early Protestantism by 
attempting to discover in it "theological moral philosophers". The people of that day 
neither desired nor needed any ethic alongside of dogma; this only became necessary after 
the upheaval of the Enlightenment." Ibid,, n, p. 52411. 

* Professor Ernst Wolf concedes the absence of a social ethic in contemporary Lutheran- 
ism with this explanation: 'II n'existe pas encore, & proprement parler, d'6thique sociale 
du luthe'rarusme; eettc lacune est due au fait quo le luthcranisme, dans sa forme allemande, 
s'est consider^ a tort comme "individualiste-quiitiste"; ou bien encore cette lacune cst 
due & ce que le lutheranisme a fauss6 les idees de Luther au point do vue de l'6thique 
sociale sous fa. forme od Luther les avait expanses conforme'ment aux conceptions de 
son epoque, et il en est result^ une thdoric sociale chre'tienne sans prise sur le present.' 
Une fsttquUte sur I'Ethlque Saddle (las Eglises, p. 32. On the other hand, the impressive 
proportions of the activities of modern German Lutherans in the social field have been 
listed by Dr. P. Karrenberg in 'Church and Social Questions in Germany' W~CC Study 
Department document, 531/346 (mimeographed), scheduled as a chapter in the projected 
volume, National Developments in Christian Social Thinking, 


Reformer produces a piety not unconnected with religious isolationism; 
it has been charged with producing a social defeatism, a spiritual 
laissez-faire, an abandonment of the tasks of the temporal order. 1 

In Calvinism the emphasis is other. 2 It is not the blessedness of the 
creature in the assurance of personal salvation that is sought but solely 
the glory of God; it is not a repose in the happiness of forgiveness and 
confidence but the service expected of the elect that is high-lighted. 
God is as remote from his fallen creation as in the teachings of Luther 
Finitum non capax infiniti! but He has, in His ineffable Will, per- 
manently predestined some as His friends. Their establishment in His 
favour is manifested not in an inwardness and depth of feeling but in 
the energy by which the individual reveals the fact of his election as an 
instrument for the tasks of the Kingdom. As a result, Calvinism has 
shown itself a more influential and dynamic influence in politics and 
social action. 3 

There is a dualism in Calvin's teaching also, adumbrated in the 
Fourth Book of his Institutes. Two Kingdoms are opposed, Christ's 
and the State, with the latter inferior to the former. If the teaching 
of the Genevan Reformer viewed die universe as a single Christocracy 
(denying thereby any legitimacy or subordinate autonomy to the 
natural order), it did not for that reason fail to engender an integral 
vision of human society in the light of the Gospel. 4 This vision was 

1 For example, by Remhold Niebuhr: 'How completely a certain type of orthodoxy 
is able to destroy every vestige of Christian, tension upon the moral life may be illustrated 
by one of the criticisms of this paper submitted by a German Lutheran theologian, ... It is 
perhaps a proof of the difficulty of the ecumenical task which faces the Christian Church 
if I bluntly declare that if I thought for a moment that the Christian gospel meant what 
is imphed in these words [the critic's], I would prefer not to be a Christian, In such an 
interpretation Christian eschatology becomes a source of moral complacency. One accepts 
all the relative injustice of the world as justice, regarding it in the same breath as both 
God-ordained and as doomed to destruction. Many a secularist has truer instincts for the 
moral realities than this complacency.' Christian Faith and the Common Life, pp. 87-5. 

a 'Le calvinisme organise la communaute; le lutheranisme n* organise que la vie 
individuelle du chre'tien.' Jean-Marcel Lechner, Le Chrisfianisme Social da Jean Calvin, p. 9. 

8 'Calvinism, in spite of its harder and less tender side [than Lulheramsm'J, has been the 
sower of richer and more social ideas, as far as the history of the world is concerned. For 
it has claimed for the New Law that it is to inspire, control, and train human existence as 
brought into Christ's visible kingdom and covenant; aiming at the mastery of man's 
whole life; at once discipline and propaganda; in its relation with the civil government 
insisting on liberty, a liberty, in the past at least, mounting up often to supremacy. 1 
C. E. Osborne, Christian Ideas in Political History, p. 212. 

4 'Thus we may sum up the Gospel of Calvin in the following terms: a new Israel has 
been born, a new holy city has been founded, established upon the Divine Law, which 
has been deepened by the spirit of the New Testament, directed by the Will and the Grace 


communicated to the elect by the Holy Spirit through the independent 
and infallible authority of the Bible (as proclaimed by its preachers), 
enlightening them about those regulatory principles which lead to the 
realization of the Kingdom of Christ. The result was an ascetic and 
utilitarian ethic, demonstrating personal election in a spirit of sober 
resolution 1 and active engagement in political and social activities 2 
which have imprinted a characteristic mark especially on die civilization 
of Anglo-Saxon lands. 

Whether the particular emphasis in social philosophy associated 
with the 'Protestant' emphasis clarifies or obscures the task of construct- 
ing the Temporal City is an item of controversy. In the opinion of 
Karl Barth the Reformers failed to establish a relation between the 
transcendental level of God's justification of the sinner and the issues 
of the proximate ends of man's existence including the problems of 
human law and social justice. 3 The ingenious efforts of the theologian 
of Basle to use the principle of analogy in constructing a bridge between 
the order of die paramount religious issues and the order of the 
humanly important issues has been found radically unsatisfactory by 
his famous Swiss colleague and contemporary, Emil Brunner. 4 

of God which deals out punishments and rewards, elected to be the organ for the glorifica- 
tion, of Christ, the God-man, in whom the hidden electing will has "become flesh, with 
power to create the community of the Church.' Troeltsch, op. ciL, n, p. 586. 

1 'The characteristic element is everywhere unlimited industry with solely spiritual 
recreation, the cutting down of the sense-life to the unavoidable minimum but without 
bodily injury or mortification, the purely utilitarian treatment of all secular tilings as 
mere means and the exclusion of all that is earthly from this aim, the methodical and 
systematic discipline and direction towards a final end in the other life.' Ibid., ir, 
p. 891. 

8 "This peculiar combination of ideas [Calvinism] produces a keen interest in politics, 
but not for the sake of the State; it produces active industry within the economic sphere, 
but not for the sake of wealth; it produces an eager social organization, but its aim is not 
material happiness; it produces unceasing labour, ever disciplining the senses, but none 
of this effort is for the sake of the object of all this industry. The one main controlling 
idea, and purpose of this ethic is to glorify God, to produce the Holy Community, to 
attain that salvation which in election is held up as the aim; to this one idea all the other 
formal peculiarities of Calvinism are subordinate.' Ibid., rt, p. 607, 

8 'First of all I will state the question thus; is there a connection between justification 
of the sinner through faith alone, completed once for all through Jesus Christ, and the 
problem of justice, of human law? Is there an inward and vital connection by means of 
which in any sense human justice (or law) as well as divine justification becomes a concern 
of Christian faith and Christian responsibility and, therefore, also a matter which concerns 
the Christian Church? ... To this question ... we receive from the Reformers either no 
answer at all or, at best, a very inadequate answer.' Church and State, pp. 1-3. 

4 'Anything and everything can be derived from the same principle of analogy; a 
monarchy just as much as a republic (Christ the King), the totalitarian State just as much 


The problem is admittedly complicated. It is not merely a question 
of distinguishing which things belong to Caesar and which to God but 
of establishing what is the relation between the realities of the two 
categories. Conceivably, the problem was muddied when Luther 
announced that 'there is no greater enemy of grace than Aristotle's 
ethics'. The Greek political philosopher had offered a rational inquiry 
on the roots and range of human justice. On the origins and nature of 
human justice, as well as on the fashion of determining its claims, 
opinion in the constituency of the World Council of Churches is 
divided by conceptions as fundamentally different and as 'mutually 
inconsistent' (in the language of the Amsterdam Report) as its diver- 
gent views on the nature of the Church. Indeed the conflict of ideas 
on the two subjects is not unrelated, being a manifestation of differing 
corporate traditions of the understanding of Christian life and faith a 
fact which makes a synthesis of the Social Thought of the World 
Council of Churches impossible and a summary of its positions on 
social questions and international affairs somewhat inconclusive. 

as a state with civil liberties (Christ the Lord of all; man, a servant, indeed, a slave of 
Jesus Christ).' Christianity and Civilization (Giffard Lectures) I, p. 319 as quoted in Gill, 
Recent Protestant Political Theory, who adds: 'The Christological social ethics fails in 
practice. Either it claims too much for the areas of immediate activity, confusing Church 
and State, holy causes and good causes, love and justice. Or in reaction it resigns the 
proximate areas (which only borrow their significance) to the relative unimportance 
whence the essentials had lifted them by sharing with them their own ultimate impor- 
tance.' p. i So. 


THE essential sources for this study are the Proceedings of the Assemblies of the 
World Council of Churches, the Minutes of the Secretaries of die Sections on 
Social Questions and International Affairs at Amsterdam and Evanston, the 
records of the meetings of the Study Department Commissions, the Minutes 
of the Meetings of the Central Committee and a few collections of official 
pronouncements. Among the published material arc the following: 


The First Assembly of the World Council of Churches: The Official Report, edited. 

by W. A. Visser 't Hooft. New York: Harper & Bros., 1948. London: 

S.C.M. Press, 1949. 
Evanston Speaks: Reports from the Second Assembly of the World Council of 

Churches, August 15-31, 1954. London: S.C.M. Press, 1954. 
The Evanston Report: The Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 

i$54, edited by W. A. Visser 't Hooft London: S.C.M. Press, 1955. 

New York: Harper & Bros., 1955. 
Minutes and Reports of the Meeting of the Provisional Committee, Buck Hill Falls, 

Penn,, April, 1947- Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1947. 
Documents of the World Council of Churches. Geneva: World Council of 

Churches, 1948. 
Minutes of the Meeting of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, 

Amsterdam and Woudschoten (mimeographed). Geneva: World Council 

of Churches, 1948. 
Minutes and Reports of the Second Meeting of the Central Committee (Chichester}. 

Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1949. 
Minutes and Reports of the Third Meeting of the Central Committee (Toronto}. 

Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1950. 
Minutes and Reports of the Fourth Meeting of the Central Committee (Rolle}. 

Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1951. 
Minutes and Reports of the Fifth Meeting of the Central Committee (Lucknow). 

Geneva; World Council of Churches, 1953. 

Assembly Work Book, Evanston, 1954. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1954. 
The Ecumenical Press Service. Weekly, 1933- . Geneva: World Council 

of Churches. Before January 1947, known as the International Christian 

Press and Information Service. 



The Ecumenical Review. Quarterly, 1948- . Geneva: World Council of 

Annual Report of die Officers of die Commission of the Churches on Inter- 
national Affairs established by the World Council of Churches and the 
International Missionary Council, 1947- 



Une Enqufoe sur I'Eihique Sociak des Eglises. Geneva: Section dcs Recherches 

du Conseil Oecumenicuie du. Christianisme Pratique, 1935. 
From the Bible to the Modern World (mimeographed). Geneva: World Council 

Study Department, 1947. 
Contributions to a Christian Social Ethic. Cahier de Bossey, No. 4. Geneva: 

Edition Oikurnene, 1949. 

Christian Action in Secular Society. Oxford, June ap-July 5, 1949 (mimeo- 
graphed). Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1949. 
The Christian Prospect in Eastern Asia. Papers and Minutes of the Eastern Asia 

Christian Conference, Bangkok, December 3-H, 1949. New York: 

Friendship Press, 1950. 
The Treysa Conference on the Biblical Doctrine of Law and Justice. Geneva: World 

Council of Churches, 1951. 
Christ Hope of Asia. Madras: The Christian Literature Society, 1953. 


A History of the Ecumenical Movement, 1^1^-1^48, edited by Rutli Rouse and 

Stephen C, Neill. London: S.P.C.K., 1954. Philadelphia: Westminster 

Press, 1954. 
The Ten Formative Years, by W. A, Visser 't Hooft. Geneva: World Council 

of Churches, 1948. 
The First Six Years, 1^48-1^4. A Report of the Central Committee of the 

World Council of Churches on the Activities of die Departments and 

Secretariats of die Council. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1954. 


The Church and the Disorder of Society. London: S.C.M. Press, 1948. New 

York: Harper & Bros., 1948. 

The Church and the International Disorder. London: S.C.M. Press, 1948. New 
York: Harper & Bros., 1948. 


Christ The Hope of the World: Report of the Advisory Commission on the Main 
Theme of the Second Assembly. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1952. 


Tht Second Report of the Advisory Commission on the Main Theme of the Second 

Assembly. Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1952, 
Our Oneness in Christ and our Disunity as Churches. New York: Harper & Bros., 

The Responsible Society in a World Perspective. New York: Harper & Bros., 


The Christian in his Vocation. New York: Harper & Bros., 1954. 
Christians in the Struggle for World Community. New York: Harper & Bros., 

Tlic Church amid Racial and Ethnic Tensions. New York: Harper & Bros., 

The Christian Hope and the Task of the Churches. New York: Harper &: Bros., 

1954. An omnibus volume containing the foregoing Background Material 

for Evans ton. 
Ecumenical Documents on Church and Society (1925-19^, edited by John W. 

Tumbull (mimeographed). Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1954. 


The Christian Understanding of Man; 
The Kingdom of God and History; 
The Christian Faith and the Common Life; 
Church and Community; 

Church, Community and Stats in Relation to Education; 
The Universal Church and the World of Nations; 

all published in London by Allen & Unwin, 1937. 


The Stockholm Conference of 1925, edited by G. K. A, Bell. Londoa: Humphrey 

Milford for die Oxford University Press, 1926. 
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Furche-Verlag, 1926. 
La Conference Untverscllc du Christlanisme Pratique, Stockholm 19-20, Aofit, 1925. 

Saint-Etienne: Editions du 'Chrisriaoisme Social', 1926*. 
Paith and Order: Proceedings of the World Conference, Lausanne, August 1927, 

edited by H. N, Bate, London: S.C.M. Press, 1927. New York: More- 
house Publishing Co,, 1937. 
It Christianime Social Tirage a part dcs nura&os 4, 7, 8. Septembre-Dccembre, 

The Churches Survey Their Task; The Report of the Conference at Oxford, July 

193^ on Church, Community and State, edited by J. H. Oldham. London: 

Allen and Unwin, 1937. 
The Second World Conference on Faith and Order, edited by Leonard Hodgson. 

London; S.C.M, Press, 1938. 


The Church and the State, edited by Kenneth G. Grubb. (Volume VI of die 
Reports of die Meeting of the International Missionary Council at 
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Christus Victor: The Report of the World Conference of Christian Youth, Amsterdam, 
jpjp, edited by Denzill G. M. Patrick. Geneva: Conference Headquarters, 


The Christian Century (Chicago). 

Christianity and Crisis (New York). 

The Christian Frontier (London). 

Social Action (New York). 

Revue du Christianisme Social (Paris). 

Church and Society (Geneva). 

(fcited in present work) 

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L. Relation, Egltse, Thtologie. Paris: Editions 'Jc Sers', 1934. 
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J-ZABMSK.IB, ALEXANDER C, Bishop "Brent. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 



AMAN, Prof. L., 233 

Abrccht, Rev. P,vul, v, 5611., 95, 16411., 
348 n., 30111. 

Adenauer, Chancellor Konrad, 23411. 

Agriculture, 197, 201 

Akxei, Patriarch of Moscow, 4011., 13211. 

Amsterdam 1948, First Assembly of World 
Council, xii; absence of Orthodox, 1711., 
41 ff.; analysis of social disorder, 170-80; 
on bearing of arms, 358; on capitalism, 
2Q2n,> 206 ff,, 31911,; on causes of war, 
357; on civic obligations, 224; on co- 
existence, ado; on communism, 45, 
209-13 ; general reactions to, 46 ft"., aSQn.; 
on human rights, 276 ff,; on international 
ethos, 370; on intcrnatonal situation, 
356 ; on means of Christian influence, 
334f.; meeting of, 44-8; on national 
sovereignty, 262; on need of institutions, 
188, 375; political orientation of dele- 
gates, 213-19; on political parties, 233 ff.; 
preparations for, 39 ff., 91 n,, 133 ., 159 
-6*4, 2(58 f,, 297 n.; on property, 123 ff., 
1 88; on race relations, 240 ; on 
religious liberty, 277; reservations ef 
Orthodox, 78; on resistance to totali- 
tarianism, 4S' on socialism, i88; on 
die Responsible Society, 19 if,; on 
underdeveloped countries, *88; on 
the United Nations, 189 

Amsterdam~Woudsehoten Meeting of 
Central Committee, xii, 48 

Anglicanism, 13, 71 n, 

Apartheid, ia 51, 50, 306 

Aron, Raymond, sain., 386 ft. 

Asmuisen, Pastor Hans, xo 

Associations ProfessioneUes Protcstantcs, 

Athenagoras, Archbishop (Metropolitan 
ofThyateira), 55 n, 

Attienagow, Patriarch of Constantinople, 

Atkinson, Dr. Henry A., 26 n., 29 n. 

Atom bomb, 3, 363 

Augustine, St. (of Hippo), 120, 267, 316 

Azariah, Bishop V. S,, 33 tu 

BABBITT, Prof, Irving, 310 

Baillic, Prof. John, 61 n., 68 

Banning, Prof. William, v, 122 n. 

Baptist World Alliance, i8n. 

Barberi, Bishop Sante Uberto, 61 n. 

Barker, Prof. Ernest, 36 

Barmen Declaration, 84 

Barnes, Rev. Roswell P., 26811. 

Barth, Prof. Karl, 8, iin., 34n., 45, 63, 

71 n., 84, 96n., 104, iiiff, 120, 142, 

150-5, i97n., 2i5n., 219, 333, 248, 

350 ,29611., 310, 319 
Barth, Peter, 136 n. 
Basis, The, 62, 7211. 
Bates, Prof. M. Searle, 162, 175 
Bednar, Prof. Frantisek, 12 n. 
Bell, Bishop G. K. A., son., <5in. 
Bennett, Prof. John C., v, 8, 2311., 46, 

I57f., lo"on., 162, 16711., 179, 192, 197n., 

302 n., 20311., 216, 240 n., 24211. 
Berdyaev, Nicolas A., 21811. 
Bcrcczky, Bishop Albert, 54n., 248 n., 285 
Berggrav, Bishop Eivind, 116, 14211., 250 
Biblical Insights, 94, 100-5, 110-15, 296, 

3*4 f- 
Bifcyres Meeting of Executive Committee, 

xii, 53 

Billing, Bishop Einar, 29 n., 3 an. 
Blake, Dr. Eugene C., 16711. 
Bliss, Mrs. Katmecn, 173 
Boegner, Pasteur Marc, 17, 39n., 69 
Bossey Conference on International Law, 

3di, 115-18 
Bossey Conference on the Bible and Social 

Questions, xii, inf. 
BoydOrr, Lord, 2n. 
Brady, Robert A., 205 n. 
Bratsiotis, Prof. Panayotis, v, 128 n., 133 n., 


Brent, Bishop Charles H., 36 f. 
Brilioth, Yngve (Archbishop of Uppsala), 

(53 f. 

Brink, Dr. C, B., 344 
British Council of Churches, i8n. 
Brogan, Prof. Denis, 4, iin. 
Brotherhood Councils, 84 

334 IN: 

Brown, Dr. William Adams, 230.., 3 in., 

Brunner, Prof. Emil, v, 8, 15, 9611., loin., 

iaon., 12411., 151 n., 154, 155 , i6on., 

162, 19611., 248, 39711., 300 n., 303 n., 

3io, 319 

Bultimnn, Rudolf, 154 
Burgmarui, Rt Rev. Ernest H., agin. 
Bums, Prof. Arthur F., i8in. 
Business system, 167, 199, 201, 20311., 

220 ff. 

CADMAN, Rev. S. Parkes, 3 an. 

Calhoun, Prof. Robert, 148 

Calvinism, m, 13611., 280, 31511., 318 

Capitalism, 46, 181, 202-9, 2X9ff. 

Casserley, J. V. Langmead, 15, 3i5n. 

Cavert, Dr. Samuel McCrea, 3211., 80, 
143, 151 n. 

Chakko, Miss Sarah, 550. 

Chandran, Rev. Joshua R., 16711. 

Chao, Dr. T. C., 55 n. 

Cheneviere, Marc-Edouard, 1211., 31511. 

Chichcster Meeting of Central Com- 
mittee, xii, 49, 104 

Chou, Mrs. Kiyo Takedu, 16711. 

Christian Century, The, 60 

Christian Economics, 206 n. 

Christian Frontier Council, 23 1 

Christian Home Life Movement, 331 

Christian Social League, 24 

Christian Social Union, 24 

Christians Stand for Peace, 282 

Chrysostom, Archbishop (Metropolitan 
of Philippi), 129 

Church and State, 236-40, 28off. 

Church Peace Union, 26 

'Church (The), the Churches and the 
"World Council of Churches' (the 
Toronto Statement), 51, 66-88 

Citnade, 230 

Civic obligations, 223 ff". , 23 2 f. , 23 5 f. , 293 , 
295, 3" 

Clark, Prof. J.M., 186 

Cobban, Prof. Alfred, 296 

Cockburn, Dr. J. Hutchinson, 49 

'Co-existence', 260, 263, 286 f. 

Coles, Rev, S. B., 167 n. 

Colombos, Dr. E. J., n6n. 

Commission of the Churches for Inter- 
national Affairs (CCIA), 40, 51, 56, 
328, 22911., 258, 2&i, 373 ff., a8aff., 

Committee for Economic Development, 
205 n, 

Committee on Structure and Functioning, 

Committee on the Christian Responsibility 
for European Co-operatiou (formerly 
the Ecumenical Comnus,sion on Euro- 
pean Co-operation), 56, 23611., 294 

Communism, 138, 19611., 209-13, 219 

Confessional Church (Bekenntnisskliche), 
34, 84 , 246 f. 

Conord, Pasteur Paul, 105 

Conscientious objection to war, 13 n,, 37, 
51, 358f. 

COPEC (British Conference on Christian 
Politics, Economics and Citizenship), 
xii, a8 n. 

Courvoisier, Prof. Jacques, 15011. 

Craig, Prof. Clarence T., 7511., 143 

Cullmann, Oscar, 154 

Czechoslovak National Church, 80 

DB Ditowcn, Suzanne, ai n. 
DC Motions Qectimetnca, i8n. 
De Vries, Prof. Egbert, l67n. 
De Waymarn, Alexandre, 43 n. 
Demant, Canon V. A,, v, 8, i$S, i6on., 


Democracy, ia, 19711., aoo, 298 
Democratic humanism, 137, 146 
Devanesan, Chandran, 4711. 
Dewey,John, 13511., 157 
Dialectical theology, 33, 84, 154 
Dibelius, Bishop Otto, 61 n. 
Dickens, Charles, 3 
Disarmament, 261 
Disraeli, Benjamin, 21511. 
Dodd.Prof.C.H., 57,5811. 
Doornkaat, Dr. Hans ten, v 
Douglass, H. Paul, 4611. 
Du Pascmier, Prof. Claude, 281 
Dulles, Donald, 13211. 
Dulles, John Poster, 45, lopn., 261, 269, 

Dun, Rt. Rev. Angus, 32 n. 

EAST ASIA Christian Conference, xH, 53 

Economic individualism, 3, 1 81, 135, 
304 ff.. 220 n.. 

Ecumenical Institute, 39, 55, 230, 267, 

Ecumenical Press Service, 3311, 

Edinburgh 1910, World Missionary Con- 
gress, xii, 19, 21 

Edinburgh 1937, the Second Faith and 
Order Conference, xii, 3 8, 78 

Education, 15, 239, 3 oaf, 

Ehlers, Dr. H,, 23<Sii. 

EhrcnstrBm, Dr, Nils, v, 13 n., 33 n., 35n,, 
pon,, iao, 131, i&m,, 24711., 302 


Eidein, Eriing (Archbishop of Uppsala), Florovsky, Fr. George, 65 n., 74 
rv^ 1 ) 1 ' Forrestal, James V., 21211 

Eisenhower, Prcs. D wight D., do, 123 n., Fortune, 46 n., 205 n., 28911. 

rt ?^ ,., .. . _,. , French Protestant Federation, 1 8 n. 

EIuD (bvangchsche Kirchc in Deutsch- 


Und), 83 ff., 234 

Eliot, Pres. Charles W., 144 

Eliot, T. $., 227 

Ellul, Prof. Jacques, 108, 162, 17111., i74f., 
^ 29711. 

Endicott, Dr. James, 5211. 

Bsclutology, iiaf., 134-49, 2.1411. 

'Ethic of Ends', 938"., 97, 108, 128, 229, 
2.95, 309 f. 

'Ethie of ItLspiration', 93 ff., looff,, 108, 
128, 229, 295, 309 f. 

Evangelical Academies, 23 1 

Evanston 1954, Second Assembly of 
World Council, xii; analysis of socual 
disorder, 180-4; &PP e al to govern- 
ments and peoples, 22,6; on bearing of 
anus, asp; on capitalism, 20211., 220 ff.; 
on Christian witness in communist 
societies, 344 f,. 253 ; on civic obligations, 
235, 233; cm co-existence, 263 f., 286; on 
communism, do, 202 n., 219, 253 f.; on 
education, 339x1.; general reactions to, 
60, 169; on inter-group relations, 59, 
241 ff. ; on international co-operation, 
204 f., 371, 378; on international ethos, 
Jt88; meeting of, 58-62; on peace, 257; 
preparations for, ssff., 120, 122, 161-7, 
i8rt 197 ff., :uo, 267* 295; oa religious 
liberty, 378, 281; report on main 
theme, 136-49; on resistance to totali- 
tMiarasni, 345 f.j on the Responsible 
Society, xp3,fF,; on the United Nations, 
S7 a . 

Existentialism, 135, 138, 147 

PAOI.W, Richard M., adpn. 

Pairti and Order, World Conference on, 

xii. 7, 37ff., 58, 143 
Family, n8n., i<!(5, 310 
Farmer, Prof. Herbert Henry, 9611, 
Fascism, ijn. 
Federal Council of the Churches of Christ 

(USA), xii, I8n., 25, 2811., 3211., 109 n., 


PeUowship of Christian Socialists, 206* n,, 


Fey, Harold, 1711,, 45 n. 
Fiscal Polities, 190 
Pwher, Dr. Cfcofficy P, (Archbishop of 

Ctiiterbury), 17, 39 n., 49, 77, aapn, 
Hihcr, Mn. Kowmoad, 167x1. 
I ! tew, R, Newton, 75 n. 

GAIBRAITH, Prof. John K., 322 

Gandhi, Mohandas K., 10511., 17411., 

Garbctt, Dr. Cyril Poster (Archbishop of 

York), 279, 28511, 
Gardiner, Richard, 2,9 n. 
Garrison, Dr. Wmfred E., 28011. 
Gennadias, Metropolitan, 79 
Gerefonneerde Klerk, 335 
'German Christians', 34, 84, nan., 150 
Germanos, Archbishop (Metropolitan of 

Thyateira),22, 39n-,43, 55 n., 78 
Gill, Dr. Theodore Alexander, 9611., 101 n., 

149 n., 206 n. 

Gladden, Washington, 24 
Gounelle, Pasteur Ehe, sort., 32n. 
Greece, Church of, 870., 133, 281 
Greek Evangelical Church, 281 
Groza, Premier Peter, 13 if. 
Grubb, Sic Kenneth G., 47, 2(36 , 268 n., 

269, 283 

Guild of St. Matthew, 24 
Guild, Rev. JXoy, 3 in. 

HAUOWEIX, Prof. John H., 2670. 

Harnack, Adolf von, 153 

Hcinemann, Dr. Gustav, 349 n,, 2,83 n. 

Henriod, Henri-Louis, 22 

Herberg, Will, 221 n. 

Herklots, Canon H, G. G., 59n., idyn,, 


Herman, Stewart Winficld, 228 n. 
Hermogenes, Archbishop of Kazan, 44 
Hcrron, George, 24 
Hcrvonnde Kerk, 235 
Hocking, Prof. W. E., 151, 157 
Hodgson, Dr. Leonard, 75 n, 
Hoffman, Paul G,, 205 n. 
Home and Family Movement, 23 1 
Hooker, PUchard, 9911. 
Hope (Evanston main theme), 55, 59 f., 


Hopkins, Charles Howard, 25 n. 
Hotton, Prof. Walter M,, 2011., ayn., So, 


Houghton, Hon, Aknson B. 36 
House, R.CV. Francis, isan, 
iltomadka, Prof. Josef, 2311., 45, 5411., 

59, 2480., 255. 269, 296 n, 
Huber, Dr. Max, 36, ii<5, win., 237, 266 
Human rights, 376-83, 390 

336 IN: 

Human Rights, proposed UN Conven- 
tion on, 13, 278 

Human Rights, Universal Declaration of, 
271, 278, 303 

HungarianEcumenical Study Commission, 
262 n., 26611, 

Hutchinson, John A., 2511., 15411. 

IIIMHLS, Bishop Ludwig, 3 1 
International Congregational Union, 1 8 n., 

International Council of Christian 

Churches, 114, 20611, 
International law, 115 f, 265-76 
International Missionary Council, xii, 20 f., 

38, 4on., 152, 230, 255, 277 

JACOB, Dr. Guenter, 60 

James, William, 157 

Jerusalem, internationalization of, 22911. 

Job, George V., i6on. 

Johnson, Dr. F. Ernest, im., 65n., 290, 

303 n. 

Juhanon, Metropolitan Mar Thoma, 61 n. 
Jungk, Robert, 18011. 
Justice, iioff., 297 n., 298, 300, 320 

KXci, Prof. Werner, v 

Kaila, Archbishop Erkki, 21411. 

Karrenberg, Dr. Friedrich, 3 16 n, 

Karrmris, I., 129 n. 

Karpov, G. G., 43 

Keller,Prof Adolf, 13 n., 3011., 32n., 120 n., 

131,235^,239, 279 
Kennan, George P., 203 n., 253 n. 
Kierkegaard, S0ren, 34, 153 
Kingdom of God as pattern of earthly 

society, 24, 30, 34, 112, 144, 149n. 
Korea, World Council resolution on, 5 off., 

88f., 108, 285, 291 
Kraemer, Dr. Hendrik, I02f., 152 
Kuyper, Dr. Abraham, 235 

Lambeth Quadrilateral, 27 
Latourette, Kenneth Scott, I9n. 
Lausanne 1927, the First Faith and Order 

Conference, xii, 27, 78 
Layman's Movement, 231 
League of Nations, 33, 77 
League of the Kingdom of God, 24 
Lechner, Jean-Marcel, 3 1 8 n. 
Leckie, Helene, v 
Ledig, Peter K., i6?n. 

Life and Work, Universal Christian Con- 
ference on, xii, 7, 3 iff, 1 1 8 n., 255 f. 

Liljc, Bishop Hauns, 23 n. 

Lippman, Walter, 19611. 

Lucknow Meeting of Central Committee, 
xii, 56 f., 240 

Lucknow Study Department Conference, 
xii, 56, 168,201,235 

Lund 1952, the Third Faith and Order 
Conference, xii, 56 f., 280, 300 

Lutheran World Federation, l8n., 48, 250, 

Lutheranism, nn., in, 142, 21511., 31411., 

MACMM.AND, Dr. Charles S., 2611., 12811. 

Mackay, Pres. John A., ion,, 283 

Mackic, Robert C., 22 

Malik, Dr. Charles, 1290. 

Malvern Conference, 101, 156 

Marais, Dr. Ben, 59 

Marxism, 137, 207,21111., 218 n,, 221, 29911. 

Mathews, Shailer, 24, 202 

Maud, John, 36 

Maurice, F. D. ( 24 

Maury, Pasteur Pierre, 23 n. 

Mays, Dr. Benjamin, 59, 240 n. 

Mclntyre, Rev. Carl, H4n, 

Methodist Ecumenical Council, 1811. 

Michael, Archbishop, 6in., 68 

Middle axioms, xo6f. 

Mill, John Stuart, 187 

Missions, 19 T. 

Mobcrly, Sir Walter, 11811., 16011. 

Monad, Pasteur Wilfred, 2911. 

Moraitis, Prof. Demctrios, I (Son, 

Moral Re-Armament, 23111., 29811, 

Morehouse, Clifford P., 21711, 

Morrison, C. C. 65 n. 

Mortaliiitn Anlinos, 1 8 n. 

Moscow Patriarchate, i8f. 42 ff., 52, 

I3lff., 218, 285 

Mott, Dr. John R., 2on., 22, 3911, 
Muelder, Prof. Walter G., v, 1670. 
Mumford, Lewis, 173 
Munby, Denys L., 16711. 

NAGY, Prof. Barnabas, xfion., 162 
National Association of Manufacturers, 

205 n. 

Nationalism, 138, 146, i<58, 176 
Natural Law, 94, 97-101, 108, it 6, 156, 

279. 3io, 316 
Nazism, 1311., 33, 36, 83 &, mn., 154, 

2t6, 241,246^, 261 n. 
Neill, Bishop Stephen C., t8n., d4n., 67 

Neutralism, tin., 213 f, 246 

Nichols, Prof. James Hastings, 1211., 36, 

59 n, 

Nicodim, Patriarch, 131 
Niebuhr, Prof. II. Richard, 1211., 14311., 

209 n. 
Niebuhr, Prof. Rcinhold, 8, 13 n., 23 n., 

9<5n,, 9811., 12411., 154, is6f,, 16011., 

162, 171, 178, 18611., 19611., 19711., 20611., 

2l6n., 22811., 34811., 28311., 294, 29911., 

301 n., 31811. 
Niemollcr, Pastor Martin, 1211., 84, 104, 

2,3411., 24911., 27811., 28311. 
Nisbet, Robert A., 12611. 
Nolde, Dr. O. Frederick, 56, 22911., 263, 

27711., 278f. 

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 272 
Nygren, Bishop Anders, ixin., 280 

OltmAM, Dr. Joseph H., 7, 2311., 3511., 
3611., 93, 109, 156, 162, 173, 185, 193 ff., 
210, 22411. 

Ordass, Bishop Lajos, 48 

Orthodox Churches, claim to be True 
Church, 71 n., 78; collaboration in. 
Ecumenical Movement, 77-81, 86 ff,, 
Wpn.; demurrers at Lausanne, 78, at 
Edinburgh, 78, at Amsterdam, 78, at 
Umd, 87, al Evanstou, 5911,, 68, 79; 
hostility of Moscow Patriarchate, 43 , 
ai8, 2185; Pan-Orthodox Conference of 
^048, 41-4; partidpalion in Student 
Christian Movement, 22; representation 
at Amsterdam, 1711., 41 ft; Russian 
Orthodox Appeal to ban atom bomb, 
5a; socul philosophy of, 128-34; visited 
by World Council delegation, 40, 78 

Osusky, Prof. Stefan, 21311. 

Oud Wassenaer, J;6 

Oxford 1^37, the Second Life and Work 
Conference, xii; approves formation of 
World Council, 38; on bearing of arms, 
358; on capitalism, 208; on Church and 
State, 33 7 1.; on civic obligations, 323; 
on economic nationalism, 264; on 
education, 339; general influence of, 
36 .; meeting of, 34-8; on need of 
common criteria, 295; on power 
politics, a66; preparations for, 3511.; on 
property, 134 f.; on race relitiom, 241; 
on religious freedom, 276 ; on resistance 
ta totalitarianism, 247; on the State, 

PATIJN, Dr. C. L, v, totf-p, is<5n. ( 16*011,, 
163, i<57n,, 185 n., 191 n., 199 n,, ao5, 
307, 21 in., ai6, 127, 285 ,, 293 

EX 337 

Paton, William, 23 f. 

Peabody, Francis, 24 

Pdter, Bishop Janos, 60, 16711., 254 

Philip, Andre", 36, 28311. 

Political Parties, 233 ff. 

Pollock, Sir Frederick, 100 

Poujol, Pierre, 8011 

Presbyterian World Alliance, 1811. 

Profit motive, 198, 206 n. 

Pronouncements, authority of, 8, 213, 

28(5 ,291-301. 
Property, 123-6, 189 
Proselytism, 820. 
Protestant, Episcopal Church, 27 
Proudhon, Pierre Joseph, 3 
Puscy, Pres. Nathan M., 14411. 

RACK relations, 59, 107, 114, 325, 240-5, 

277, 306 

Raga?,, Leonhard, 24 
Rakosi, Matyas, 217 
Rappard, William E., 179 n. 
Raskol, The, 131 
Rauschenbusch, Walter, 24 
Ravasz, Bishop Ladislas, 203 
Re-armament, 12,22911. 
Reckitt, Maurice B,, 28 n., 155 
Refugees, 9, 39, 55, 120, 230, 275, 286, 

Religion, instrumental conception of, 29 , 

Religious freedom, 12, 49, 51, 104, 238, 

Religious persecution, 3<5, 42, 49, 115, 

19311., 282 n., 28511. 
Remer, Otto, 245 n. 
Remonstrantse Brocderschap, 72 n. 
'Responsible Society, The', 94, 105, 117- 

29, 162, i88, 191-202, 295 
Rhee, Pies. Syngman, 56 
Richardson, Prof. Alan, 9911., 10311. 
Riesuun, Prof. David, 160 n. 
Ritschl, Albrecht, 2911., 150 
Robinson, Prof. William, 83 n. 
Rockefeller, John D., Jr., 39, 151 
Rodke, Bishop Eduard, 28011. 
Rolle Meeting of Central Committee, 

xii, s^ff.i 219 

Roman Catholic Church, 1 8 n, 
Roosevelt, Pres. Franklin P., 20511. 
Rbpke, Prof. Wilhelm, 127, 18711., 196 n., 


Rouse, Ruth, i8n., 2311. 
Rowntree, R. Seebohm, 14 
Royce.Josiah, 157 

338 IN: 

SALVATION ARMY, van., 23 in. 

Sayre, Francis B., 36 

Schlciermacher, Fricdrich, iSofF. 

Sclilink, Prof. Edmund, 147 

Schweitzer, Albert, 143 

Schweitzer, Dr. Wolfgang, 99 n., 11211, 

Scientific Humanism, 137, 146 

Scott Holland, H,, 24 

Seton- Watson, Hugh, 217 

Shedd, Clarence P., am. 

Sheldon, Rev. Charles, 25 

Sherrill, Rt. Rev. Henry Knox, 6 in., 


Siegfried, Andr<5, 16 
Sigtuna, Ecumenical Institute of, 3 8 
Simons, Dr. Walter, 105 
Smend, Prof. Rudolf, 142 
Sobrepena, Bishop Enrique C., 16711. 
Social Creed of the Churches, 127 f. 
Social Gospel, 12, 25 , 150 
Socialism, 12, 24, 49, 150, 182, 20211., 


Society of Friends, 72 a. 
SGderblom, Archbishop Nathan, 2911., 

3 in., 91 

Soe, Prof. Neils H., 16711. 
Sovereignty, 197, 256, 262, 306 
Soviet Union, 161, 176, 207, an, 2i4n., 

2 16,24 0,24811., 272, 279 
Spencer, Herbert, 13611. 
Sperry, Dean Willard, 30 
StaHn (losif Visarionovich Dzugashvili), 

I32n., 20911., 286 
Stalinism, 175, 209, 261 n. 
Stamp, Sir Josiah, 36 
Stange, Lie. Erich, 14911, 
State, The, 13, 35, 119-23, 167, 192, 197f., 

201, 2l4n., 276, 290, 297 n., 302, 311 
Stockholm 1925, the First Life and Work 

Conference, xii, 26, 28-32, 149, 163, 186, 


Stockholm Peace Appeal, 52 
Student Missionary Volunteers, 2211. 
Student World, monthly organ of the 

WSCF, 23 

Stuttgart Declaration, 1945, 10 
Swiss Federation of Protestant Churches, 

i8n,, 32n., 7in., 8511,, 310 

TAFT, Charles P., 46, 59, i6on., i67n. 

Tatlow, Tissington, 22 n. 

Tawney, Prof. R. H., 36, 219, 227, 304 

Technical Assistance Programmes of UN, 
135 n., i<58, 265, 273 ff., 286 

Temple, William (Archbishop of Canter- 
bury), 8, 9, 22, 70, 72n., 94, 101, 156, 

Thomas, Prof. George M., 191 
Thomas, M. M., 162, 177, 23911,, 2430. 
Tillich, Piof. Paul, 8, 154 
Tomkins, Rev. Dr. Floyd, 24 u. 
Tomkins, Rev. Oliver S., 1811., 74, 7511., 

Toronto Meeting of Central Committee, 

xii, 50 ff. 

Toynbee, Arnold}., 3, 16 
Trade unions, 24, 222 
Treysa Conference on the Bible and Law, 

xii, 113 
Troeltsch, Ernst, 13, 150, 304, 310, 3i6n., 

31711., 31811., 31911. 
Truman, Prcs. Marry S., 2050. 
Turnbull, Rev. John W., u8n. 
Two Realms, 3011., in, 316 

UNESCO, 240 
Ungerer, Pasteur E., 22011. 
United Nations Organisation, 270-6, 302 
Urcy, Dr. Harold C., 2, 3 
Urwin, E. C., 162 

Utrecht 1938, Meeting of Committee of 
Fourteen, xii, 38, 92 

VADSTENA, xii, 21 

Van Asbeck, Baron F. M., 115, 265 n., 

266 ,284 
Van Dusen, Prcs. H. P., 23 n,, 70 n., 80, 


Van Thaddcn, R., 2311. 
Vandenburg, Senator Arthur, 27711. 
VELKD (United Evangelical Lutheran 

Church in Germany), 85 
Visser 'tHooft, Dr. W. A., v, aa, 23, 2511., 

3511., 36, 41 n,, 42, 50, 51 u,, 59 n,, 6a, 

66, 67n., 68, 70, 72 n., 74, 80, 88, 93, 101 , 

11311., 183 n., 21311,, 228, 240,247,3490., 

258n., 278, 288 
Von Dietze, Prof. Constantin, idem., 

Von Witfcleben, Maj.-Gen, Hermann J.W., 

245 n. 

WADHAM COLUGB Conference on the 

Bible and Social Questions, xii, 113 
Wallace, Henry A., 2x6 
Walz,H.H., 11711. 
Ward, Rev. Harry P., 14411. 
Weber, Max, 213 n, 
Weinkauff, Dr. Hermann, 24511, 
Wendland, Heinz; Dietrich, 13411, 
Westcott, Bishop B, P., 24 
Wesley, John, 20 n. 

Whymer, Dr. Gloria, 229*1. 

Whyte, William H., Jr., 205 n. 

Wiesner, Werner, 102 

Willard, Prances, 58 n. 

Williams, Daniel Day, 15811. 

Wilson, Prcs. Woodrow, 33 

Wolf, Prof. Ernst, 317 n. 

Woods, Rt. Rev. Theodore, 30, 35611. 

World Alliance for International Friend- 
ship through the Churches, xii, 7, 2<5, 
a8 n., 255, 297 n., 298 f, 304 

World Council Department of Inter- 
Church Aid and Service to Refugees, 
3211., 55, 230, 275 

World Council Study Department, 3211., 
55 f., 92, 160, 165 ff., 184, 228, 233, 251 f. 

>EX 339 

World Peace Council, 52, 285 
World's Student Christian Federation ,xii, 
20 , 21-4 

Young Men's Christian Association, 21, 
72 n. 

ZABRISKIB, Alexander C., 2711. 
Zander, Prof. L. A., 23 n., 64, 7211. 
Zankov, Prof. S., 41 n. 
Zernov, Nicolas, 7911., 87 n. 
Zhdanov, Andrei A., 211 
Zimmern, Sir Alfied, 36 

Itnprimi Potcst 


Praeposittis Provincialis, Provinciae Novae Angliite 
Die: 20 Martii, 1955 

Nlhil Qbstat 

Diocesan Censor Dqnttatus 

Archbistiop of Boston 
Die: 4 Aprilis, 1955